Vicar of Arabia: Oman, 'migrant Church with a strong community spirit'
Over the weekend, Bishop Hinder celebrated the country's first priestly ordination and imparted Confirmation to about 170 boys and girls. The challenge is to "respect" the needs in pastoral care, avoiding ethnic and nationalistic drifts. It is on the young seminarians to build the future of the local Church.
Mascate (AsiaNews) - The Church in Oman is a "migrant" reality made up of Indian, Filipino, European, American and African workers, where there is a strong "community spirit" that must not, however, "close in on itself" by taking on "ethnic or nationalistic" drifts, says Msgr. Paul Hinder, vicar of southern Arabia (Emirates, Oman and Yemen) and apostolic administrator sede vacante of northern Arabia (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain).Last weekend he celebrated Oman's first priestly ordination.
In areality such as the Gulf context, he explains to AsiaNews, "the challenge is to respect the needs of each in pastoral practice" starting "from the language", but "maintaining the link at the community level" even if "it is not always easy "to pursue the goal".
The two parishes in the capital "are the most important points of reference", emphasizes Mgr. Hinder, then there are two other centers in the north, near the border with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and one in the south, in Salalah, a thousand kilometers away from Mascate and "with only one priest". None of the parishioners "is a citizen of Oman," he continues, but they are all "immigrants for work" who can gather, celebrate the Eucharist and pray benefiting from a general freedom of worship "in a living, vital reality, which offers the reading of the Bible and the recitation of the Rosary."
Speaking of the first ordination, the vicar of Arabia describes "a beautiful atmosphere, of participation, even if there are still some limitations imposed by the pandemic [of Covid-19] that involve restrictions on the number of participants. In addition, there are still people who are reluctant to go to church because of the fear of the virus, but this has not prevented a strong presence of a community that has tightened" around Fr. The priest, says Msgr. Hinder, "grew up in the parish" of Saints Peter and Paul in Mascate, and "here he served as an altar boy, attended school, and then went to the Salesians. He was very happy and grateful" to have received the sacrament "in his parish."
According to the vicar, the "vitality and richness" of this parish reality is one of the reasons that allowed the young man to cultivate his faith and to "live in prayer and charity, showing attention and care towards the most needy". It is precisely his path and his testimony, the relationship that he has been able to build over the years with other young people "can be an example for other boys and girls" who might decide to take the same path.
"In fact, there are - he confirms - two or three other young people, who grew up in the parish, who are studying with the prospect of future ordination. As there are in the Emirates, in Bahrain... there are not thousands, but there are" and they represent the future of the Church of Arabia.
In addition to the ordination, last weekend saw the celebration of the confirmations of dozens of young people and a meeting of all the country's priests, for a moment of reflection and in-depth study of the most important issues: "In the parish of Peter and Paul, 95 boys and girls received their confirmation on the morning of March 26th; in the afternoon, another 72 in the parish of the Holy Spirit in Ghala. All young people between the ages of 13 and 14, for a community celebration that was well prepared and well attended."
In the meeting with the priests, however, the challenges for the future emerged, starting with the issue of migrants "who are losing their jobs, since the government has launched a policy aimed at encouraging the employment of locals. This has triggered an outflow that is reflected in the physiognomy of the parishes, with numbers that are visibly decreasing even if, at least so far, not at dramatic levels." That's why it becomes essential to ensure employment, as well as to ensure an "adequate path of formation for young people that passes through the presence of catechists in the parishes. This too - concludes Msgr. Hinder - is a problem that the local Church is called to address".