Manama (Agenzia Fides) - On the morning of Thursday, December 9, the Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia was inaugurated by Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al Khalifa, representing the King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The inauguration also the presence of Bishop Paul Hinder, Apostolic Vicar for Northern Arabia, Archbishop Eugene Nugent, Apostolic Nuncio in Bahrain and Kuwait, and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, who tomorrow, Friday December 10, will preside over the liturgy for the consecration of the place of worship.
In 2007 the Comboni Bishop, Camillo Ballin, at that time Apostolic Vicar of Kuwait, asked the Holy See to establish a day of celebration in honor of the Virgin Mary with the title of Our Lady of Arabia. In 2011, the Holy See officially proclaimed Our Lady of Arabia as the Patroness of the two Vicariates then present in the Arabian Peninsula, that of Kuwait and that of Arabia. In May 2011, the Holy See reorganized the Vicariate of Kuwait, including in it the territories of Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and renaming it as the "Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia (while the other Vicariate of the Arabian Peninsula, renamed "Vicariate of Southern Arabia", includes the territories of Yemen, United Arab Emirates and Oman). In 2012, the head office of the Vicariate of Northern Arabia was moved to Bahrain precisely because of the kingdom's geographical location (an archipelago of 33 islands along the left bank of the Persian Gulf) and other logistical reasons.
The presence of a local Catholic community made up of immigrant workers in the kingdom, has been documented since the 1930s, and at the moment, according to data reported by the Vicariate, it could reach the number of 150 thousand faithful, mostly from India and Philippines. In recent decades, and up to now, only two churches have been open in the country, and the insufficiency of places of worship where liturgies are celebrated and sacraments are administered was felt with growing unease on the part of the local Catholic community. Faced with this situation, with an act of royal magnanimity, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa gave the Vicariate a land of 9 thousand square meters located in the municipality of Awali, for the construction of a new church.
In February 2013, Bishop Ballin himself gave the news of the royal donation through Fides agency (see Fides, 13/2/2013).
On May 19, 2014, during his visit to the Vatican, it was King Hamad bin Isa himself who presented the Pope with a plastic model of the cathedral under construction. Last November 25 (see Fides, 26/11/2021), King Ahmad bin Isa also sent a message to Pope Francis to officially invite him to visit Bahrain. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 9/12/2021)