Plans for first Catholic church in Saudi Arabia

 Discussions are currently taking place between the Vatican and the Saudi government to build the first Catholic church in Saudi Arabia. Vatican Radio reported yesterday that King Abdullah has offered his his support for the construction of the church, despite the kingdoms ban on allowing the building of any non-Muslim place of worship. No religion other than Islam is allowed to hold public services, and even the possession of Bibles, rosaries, and crucifixes is forbidden. Saudi Arabia is the only country on the Arabian Peninsula without a Catholic church despite the 800,000 Catholics - virtually all of who are foreign workers. While Saudi Arabia does not have formal diplomatic relations with the Holy See, King Abdullah became the first reigning Saudi monarch ever to visit the Vatican last November. Commenting after his meeting with the Pope Vatican officials confirmed that Pope Benedict asked for permission to open a Catholic church in the kingdom. Fr Federico Lombardi, spokesman for the Holy See said that opening a Catholic parish in the Islamic land would be "a historic achievement" for religious freedom and a major step forward for inter-religious dialogue. The apostolic nuncio to Kuwait, Qatar, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, Archbishop Paul-Mounged El-Hachem, is reportedly the lead Vatican negotiator in talks with Saudi officials. Source: Vatican Radio

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