Monday, March 17, 2008

Thousands attend first mass at Qatari church

UNDER GUARD: Dozens of police were deployed to guard 15,000 worshippers who attended mass at Qatar’s first church. (AFP)

Almost 15,000 Christians took part on Saturday in the first mass at Muslim Qatar's only church, which like elsewhere in the Gulf Arab region has no bells or crosses on its exterior, despite threats from Islamists.

Vatican envoy Cardinal Ivan Dias presided over the eucharist at Our Lady of the Rosary Roman Catholic church in Doha, thanking "God and Qatar for this great gift".

The mass was conducted in English, but prayers were also said in Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Tagalog, Spanish and French for the many nationalities that would worship in the church.

Dozens of police were deployed around the church, which cost some 20 million dollars (13 million euros), and female officers searched the handbags of women worshippers.

Western embassies, particularly from the US and Britain, warned nationals living in Qatar to be extra vigilant after an Islamic militants on the Internet made threats linked to the opening of the church.

Worshippers said they were not concerned by the threats.

The UAE prides itself on its religious tolerance and cultural diversity, and most Gulf Arab states have long allowed Christians to worship in churches.

But Saudi Arabia, which adheres to a rigorous doctrine of Islam known as Wahhabism and is home to Islam's holiest sites, bans all non-Muslim religious rituals and materials.

However, the papal nuncio in the Gulf, Archbishop Paul-Munjed Al-Hashem, said on the sidelines of the Doha mass that talks had begun with Riyadh to convince it to become the final Gulf Arab state to allow churches.

Discussions are underway with Saudi Arabia to allow the construction of churches in the kingdom.

1 comment:

chase / chubz said...

its amazing that qatar agreed to putting a church.
i thought they are very adamant on religion stuff.

i guess, things has changed