Abu Dhabi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – “Christians who live in this country need opportunities to give witness of faith and to grow in their faith. My message to the Christian community is that they may be strengthened in their efforts to grow in their faith, and be charitable to others,” said Card Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, on the inauguration of St Paul’s Catholic Church, in Mussaffah, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
In addition to Card Parolin, the ceremony saw the presence of Archbishop Peter Rajic, apostolic nuncio to the Arabian Peninsula; Bishop Paul Hinder, apostolic vicar of Southern Arabia; and Bishop Camillo Ballin, apostolic vicar of Northern Arabia.
It is Abu Dhabi’s second Catholic church. The first one, which is dedicated to St Joseph, just celebrated its first 50 years.
Consecrated yesterday, the new church gives strength to the local Christian community. “In the short time that I’ve been here in the UAE, I’ve had the opportunity to see that the church is very lively and, tomorrow, it will be an occasion to meet the community,” Card Parolin said.
Bishop Hinder said the community was thankful for the safe environment presented to it. “We are grateful for the stability and peace that we enjoy in this country. The capital city has experienced enormous growth since the opening of St Joseph’s Cathedral in 1983 and the addition of St Therese Chapel in October last year,” he said.
Today the UAE is home to about 900,000 Catholics, mostly from Asia. About 25,000 of them had to travel quite a distance to attend the service in Abu Dhabi.
Fr Ani Xavier, St Paul’s parish priest, will be joined by assistant priests Fr Matthew Fernandes and Fr Ashok Gonzalves.
There will be daily services in English, weekly services in Arabic, Malayalam and Tagalog, a bi-monthly service in Tamil and a monthly service in Konkani.