GCC’s largest Roman Catholic church has opened in Bahrain under the patronage of His Majesty the King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in Awali.
The state-of-the-Art, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia was inaugurated in the presence of the Personal Representative of His Majesty the King, His Highness Shaikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al Khalifa. The new Cathedral stretches within 9,000 square metres of land donated by His Majesty the King.
Attending the event were members of the Royal family, senior government officials, ambassadors, Dr Shaikh Khalid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence, reverend fathers, religious sisters, and guests.
HH Shaikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Khalifa conveyed greetings from HM the King, stressing royal pride in opening the largest cathedral in the Arabian Gulf region. He highlighted HM the King’s enlightened vision to foster rapprochement between religions and culture in line with Bahrain’s commitment to promoting dialogue between religions, cultures and civilisations.
He affirmed HM the King’s keenness on bolstering Bahrain’s standing as a civilised country and a pioneering beacon of tolerance between peoples and religions, which turned the Kingdom into a model of tolerance and coexistence.
He highlighted HM the King’s support to efforts aimed to foster human fraternity to ensure a better and more prosperous future for all human beings.
He reiterated Bahrain’s rejection of extremism, violence, hatred, bigotry, underlining the importance of strengthening bonds of cooperation, the friendship between all countries and peoples on the basis of mutual respect.
He stressed Bahrain’s pride in its relations with the church for its pivotal role in spreading the culture of peace and love. He said that HM the King gifted a land covering 900 square metres to construct the cathedral, which reflects HM the King’s vision to protect liberties, promote diversity within unity, ethical and religious principles and values.
HH Shaikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al Khalifa hailed the efforts of the Government, chaired by HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, to foster these values and principles between all social segments in Bahrain which embraces all religions and sects.
HH Shaikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al Khalifa received on this occasion a commemorative gift from His Eminence Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, Representative of Pope Francis.
The ceremony began with the national anthem of Bahrain by the Ministry of Interior band. HH Shaikh Abdullah lit a crystal ball with words like peace, faith, love, hope, mercy, wisdom and charity, to mark the occasion.
The Cathedral which is an outstanding sign of Bahrain’s religious harmony and tolerance has 2,200 seating capacity, two chapels with 80 seating capacity, 800 seating capacity auditorium and 8 confession rooms.
In his speech, His Eminence Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, Representative of Pope Francis, said he was deeply honored to witness this historic event.
His Eminence conveyed the message of His Holiness Pope Francis of greetings of peace and solidarity to His Majesty the King on the inauguration of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia.
He expressed his gratitude for the contribution of the architecture and people who have collaborated in the planning and execution of this construction especially during the difficult time of the pandemic.
Dr. Shaikh Khalid said it was a historical day to inaugurate the Cathedral of our lady of Arabia. “It’s a historic event because the last one was inaugurated some 81 years ago and we are very proud to have this place of worship for the Catholic community. There are around 80,000 worshippers that will be using the church here.”
“Historically speaking it’s not strange for Bahrain to support non- Muslims or people from other religions to worship here. Bahrain has freedom of practice of other religions and worships for over 200 years ago,” said Dr. Shaikh Khalid adding that, “The first such gesture of Kingdom of Bahrain was in 1819 were the ruler of Bahrain gave license for a Hindu Temple and for over 100 years it was the only one and first in this area.”
He said: “It wasn’t surprising that in 1893 the American Mission representatives came to Bahrain, met with the then ruler the late Shaikh Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa and asked him for permission to establish a church, a school and a hospital.”
“It took everyone by surprise because there was a Muslim ruler who supported and allowed preachers to come and preach the Christians. Such a gesture and support can hardly be found today but what about 125 or 200 years ago.”
He said that it was a light-hearted spirit that this ruler of Bahrain enjoyed that encouraged him to agree.
“Today, we are not surprised with this great gesture of His Majesty the King bestowed a land for this Cathedral and offered all the help possible in the construction and having the opening ceremony under his patronage.”
Dr Shaikh Khalid said he hoped that this church will be a beacon of light for many and it will send a message of hope and peace to other worship places in Bahrain. The opening of this church is proof that we have lived for centuries in Bahrain without any problems between sects, religions and racism. We are very proud to have the freedom of religion and worship.”
Bishop Paul Hinder, Vicar Apostolic in the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia and Apostolic Administrator of Northern Arabia said the opening of the Cathedral is a unique and historic event.
Bahrain was traditionally on the Peninsula the most open country, he added.
The opening of the cathedral is a clear reflection of openness that characterises the Kingdom of Bahrain.
The opening of the cathedral was warmly hailed by members of the Christian community in the Kingdom.