Religion


Vatican: Secret talks for churches in Saudi Arabia, says report




Vatican City, 17 March(AKI) - Secret negotiations are taking place between the Vatican and Saudi Arabia to allow Christian churches in the strictly Muslim country, reports the Italian daily, La Stampa.

The Vatican is negotiating with Saudi Arabia for "authorisation to build Catholic churches," says archbishop Mounged El-Hachem, papal nuncio of Kuwait, Qatar, Yemen, Bahrein and the United Arab Emirates.

According to La Stampa, the secret talks, favoured by Saudi King Abdullah, have been taking place for several weeks and are considered an unprecedented for the Catholic church.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Pope Benedict XVI (photo) pledged in November to work for peace and closer religious ties at a historic meeting at the Vatican in Rome.

It was the first official visit by a Saudi monarch to the Holy See and the meeting lasted for thirty minutes.

The Italian newspaper claimed on Monday that up to 900,000 Catholics live in Saudi Arabia, all of them expatriate workers.

"If we get official authorisation to build the first church, it will be an historic achievement, a clear step forward from a social, cultural and religious point of view," said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi, quoted in La Stampa.

It is forbidden to practise Christianity in public in Saudi Arabia and illegal to bring symbols from religions other than Islam into the country. Bibles and crucifixes must be left at the border.

The secret talks seem to have been taking place while Qatar's first Catholic Church was inaugurated in the area of Abu Hamour near the capital, Doha.

Rome on the other hand, has Europe's biggest mosque, inaugurated in 1995.




 

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