Vatican to open the first Catholic Church in Saudi Arabia

Rome, Italy, Mar.19, 2008 ( - The Vatican is in negotiations with Saudi Arabia to open the first Catholic Church in the country in modern times, the Telegraph reports.

Archbishop Mounged El-Hachem, the papal envoy to Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates, said that talks had started a few weeks ago after King Abdullah’s November visit with Pope Benedict XVI.

Archbishop El-Hachem said a church in Saudi Arabia would be an important sign of “reciprocity” between the two faiths.
At present all Saudi citizens are required by law to be Muslim.  The Mutaween, the kingdom’s religious police, strictly prohibits the practice of non-Muslim religions.

The last Christian priest was expelled from the kingdom in 1985. 

Catholic relations with other Muslim countries are improving.  On Sunday, Qatar saw its first Catholic church open.


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