Saudi Arabia extends hand of friendship to Pope Richard Owen
The Times, March 17, 2008RomeThe Vatican is believed to be holding talks with Saudi authoritiesover opening the first Roman Catholic church in the Islamic kingdom, where Christian worship is banned and even to possess a Bible, rosary orcrucifix is an offence.
The disclosure came the day after the first Catholic church in Qatarwas inaugurated in a service attended by 15,000 people and conducted by asenior Vatican official.The Vatican and Saudi Arabia do not have diplomatic relations.
However, Archbishop Paul-Mounged El-Hachem, the Papal Nuncio to Qatar, Kuwait,the UAE, Yemen and Bahrain, who attended the Doha inauguration, saidthat moves towards diplomatic ties were under way after anunprecedented visit to the Vatican last November by King Abdullah. This wouldinvolve negotiations for the "authorisation of the building of Catholicchurches" in Saudi Arabia, he said.
The move would amount to a potential revolution in Christian-Muslimrelations, since Saudi Arabia adheres to a hardline Wahhabi versionof Sunni Islam and is home to Mecca and Medina, the most holy sites ofthe religion. No faith other than Islam may be practised.Related Links* Analysis: Saudi Arabia and the Vatican
sumber : <http://www.timesonl ine.co.uk/ tol/comment/ faith/article357 4703.ece>
Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said that he could not confirm that the two sides were in negotiations. However, he added: "If, as we hope, we reach an agreement authorising the construction of the first church in Saudi Arabia, it will be a step of historic importance."Saudi religious police search the homes of Christians regularly; even private prayer services are forbidden in practice.
Foreign workers have to observe Ramadan but are not allowed to celebrate Christmas or Easter.La Stampa, the Italian daily, said that the talks would have been"unthinkable" until recently. The way was paved by KingAbdullah's talks with the Pope and by the recent setting up of apermanent Catholic-Muslim forum to repair relations between the twofaiths after the Pope's controversial remarks on Islam at theUniversity of Regensburg in 2006.The Pope said that his apparent reference to Islam as inherently violent had been misunderstood and he made amends by praying at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul soon afterwards.
Of the Saudi Arabian population, 94 per cent are Muslim and less than 4 per cent - nearly a million people - Christian, nearly all of them foreign workers. The last Christian priest was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1985.Qatar, which hopes to bid to host the Olympic Games in 2016, has approved five churches for other Christian denominations, including the Anglican Communion.
March 18, 2008, Negotiations are underway to build the first Catholic church inSaudi Arabia with King Abdullah lending his support for itsconstruction.Vatican Radio reports the Vatican and the Saudi government arecurrently in talks to allow the church despite the kingdoms ban on allowing theconstruction of any non-Muslim place of worship.No religion other than Islam is allowed to schedule 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 whoare foreign workers.While Saudi Arabia does not have formal diplomatic relations with the Holy See, King Abdullah became the first reigning Saudi monarch everto visit the Vatican last November.Commenting after his meeting with the Pope Vatican officialsconfirmed the Pontiff pressed for permission to open a Catholic church in the kingdom.
Holy See spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said that opening a Catholicparish in the Islamic land would be "a historic achievement" forreligious freedom and a major step forward for inter-religiousdialogue.The apostolic nuncio to Kuwait, Qatar, Yemen, the United ArabEmirates, and Bahrain, Archbishop Paul-Mounged El-Hachem, is reportedly thelead Vatican negotiator in talks with Saudi officials.
Kemungkinan, atas dasar liberalisasi dan hak asasi manusia serta tekanan antarabangsa menyebabkan pemerintah Saudi mula membuka pintu untuk kristian bertapak. Suka hatilah..sebab mereka yang berkuasa. Tetapi..renunglah, apa nak jadi dengan keadaan negara yang mempunyai Dua Tanah Suci Umat Islam jika gereja bertapak dan menjalankan aktiviti mrk disana. Bani Saud juga harus menjaga sensitiviti Ummat ini. Apa nak jadi daa..