05/31/2007, 00.00
VATICAN – UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
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Holy See and UAE establish diplomatic ties

A Vatican statement reports that about a million Christians live in the UAE and its constitution guarantees religious freedom. There are seven churches in the country and religious congregations run an equal number of schools.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In a press statement released today the Holy See and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have announced their decision to establish diplomatic relations to promote “bonds of mutual friendship” and strengthen “international cooperation”. They will be at the level of apostolic nunciature on the part of the Holy See and the ambassadorial level on the part of the United Arab Emirates.

The Vatican note goes on to say that in the almost exclusively Muslim country Islam is the official state religion. The UAE constitution does however guarantee religious freedom and the right of Christians to worship in churches and parish complexes.

The UAE falls under the apostolic vicariate of Arabia and has its seat in Abu Dhabi under His Excellency Mgr Paul Hinder, OFM Cap.

"According to reliable estimates," the note says, "there are more than a million Christians, mostly Catholics, of more than a hundred nationalities who contribute to the social wellbeing of the nation. There are seven churches in the country where mass is celebrated in various languages and rites. The expectation exists that  the authorities, who maintain cordial relations with the Catholic Church, will approve the building of new centers of worship. Various religious congregations offer educational services in seven schools."

The UAE is a federation of seven independent emirates (Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Al-Fujayrah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Qaiwain) located on the east-central coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The capital is Abu Dhabi.

The country’s territory is around 83,600 sq km for a population of about 4,000,000, largely Arab. Most foreign workers (about 70 per cent) come from the Middle East, Pakistan, India, Philippines and Bangladesh.

The country is rich in oil and gas and boasts a high per capita income. It also plays a major role in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The construction, communication and tourism sectors also play an important role in the UAE economy.

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