Bahrain Catholics celebrate the opening of Our Lady of Arabia Cathedral
The official inauguration by King Hamad is set for 9 December, followed by the consecration the next day in a ceremony led by Card Tagle. Bishop Ballin, who passed last year, was the driving force behind the complex, which was built on land donated by the king. The church has a 2,300-seating capacity. A time capsule with the history of the Church of Arabia was interred at the site.
Manama (AsiaNews) – Catholics in Bahrain and the Church of the Middle East are getting ready to celebrate the official opening of the new Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia, patron saint of the Arabian Peninsula.
The church is largest Christian place of worship in the region and is meant to become a reference point for the entire community of northern Arabia, currently headed by Card Luis Antonio Tagle, Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, following the death in April last year of Bishop Camillo Ballin, Apostolic Vicar for Northern Arabia, who was the driving force behind the project.
Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa will lead the inauguration of the cathedral in Awali, a small municipality in central Bahrain, on 9 December. The church’s consecration will follow the next day led by Card Luis Antonio Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.
Unfortunately, celebrations for Catholics will be limited; because of COVID-19 restrictions, only a small group of people will be able to take part in the event.
The complex includes the church with its distinctive ark-shaped structure as well as a multipurpose building with the Bishop’s House and a multifunctional centre that can host social, educational and cultural events.
The church has a seating capacity of 2,300 and a time capsule with the history of the local Church and Christians was interred at the site.
For the Catholic community in Arabia this is the final stage in a long process that began on 11 February 2013, feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, when the decision was taken to build a cathedral on land donated by the king, who has ruled Bahrain since 2002.
One the main points of attraction of the new church will be a polychrome statue of Our Lady of Arabia.
Islam is Bahrain’s official religion and Islamic law (Sharia) is the source of the local law.
Catholics number around 80,000 out of a total of 1.5 million inhabitants (10 per cent Christian), mostly migrants from Iraq and Iran. The country also has Jewish and Hindu communities.
When the country’s oil boom started, hundreds of thousands of Christians came from Sri Lanka, India, Lebanon, the Philippines and several Western countries.
At Christmas and Easter, churches in Bahrain also draw Christians from Saudi Arabia, where all religions except Islam are banned.
Pope Francis recently met with Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, the special envoy of the King of Bahrain, who gave the pontiff a personal invitation from the monarch to visit the country.
In 2014, King Hamad personally presented the Holy Father with a model of the future cathedral.