Diplomacy has always been one of the Vatican's strong suits.
The Vatican has confirmed something sure to make the Arab street seethe--it is negotiating for permission to build the first Catholic church in Saudi Arabia.
The announcement comes on the heels of the opening of a church in Qatar. The first Christian church in the country which has no bells nor visible crosses.
There are over 3/4 of a million Catholics in Saudi Arabia.
Presiding over the cradle of Islam and home to its holiest sites, the Saudi monarchy has long banned the open worship of other faiths, even as the number of Catholics resident in Saudi Arabia has risen to 800,000 thanks to an influx of immigrant workers from places like the Philippines and India. Mosques are the only houses of prayer in a country where the strict Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam dominates.
But Archbishop Paul-Mounged El-Hachem, the papal envoy to the smaller countries on the Arabian peninsula, such as Kuwait and Qatar, has confirmed that talks are under way to establish formal diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Saudi Arabia, and to eventually allow for Catholic churches to be built there. Pope Benedict XVI is believed to have personally appealed to King Abdullah on the topic during the Saudi monarch's first ever visit to the Vatican last November.
The last Christian priest was expelled from the kingdom in 1985.
Will there be demonstrations in Saudi Arabia if a Christian church is built?
Will "the religion of peace" blow something up?
Does the Pope wear a beanie?
hat tip: FARK
image: catholic news
Source: A Church in Saudi Arabia?
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