Vatican representative Cardinal Fernando Filoni will open a new Catholic church in Ras Al Khaimah, in the United Arab Emirates on Friday. The Vatican’s Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, will consecrate the 5,000 square metre St Anthony of Padua Church in the Al Jazira Al Hamra district, about 25 km from the city.
Other officials who will attend the event include Archbishop Petar Rajic, Apostolic Nuncio to the Arabian Peninsula and Bishop Paul Hinder, Vicar Apostolic of Southern Arabia.
“This is a great achievement,” said Fr Galdolf Josef, 73-year-old secretary of Abu Dhabi-based Bishop Paul Hinder. “Ras Al Khaimah is developing quite a bit, especially its industries and tourism, and so is the number of migrant workers. We’re thankful to the Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah for giving us the land.”
There are about 6,000 Catholics in Ras Al Khaimah, said the Swiss prelate. In the UAE there are an estimated 700,000 Catholics who go to 10 churches and served by about 40 priests speaking a dozen languages.
“The church is very much alive here, in Africa and certainly in Asia. All of the members are migrant workers. Besides Filipinos, Indians and Christian Arabs, we have a growing number of Korean Catholics too. Services in rather small churches here are packed, while in Europe, big and beautiful cathedrals are almost empty,” Fr Galdolf said.
The 1,200-seat church can accommodate up to 1,500 worshippers. Two major roads link the new church to Umm Al Qwain, Ajman and Sharjah. The existing chapel in RAK’s Al Nakheel district, meant for 500 parishioners, sometimes caters to more than 10 times its capacity.