ASIA/KUWAIT - The Coptic Catholic community in the Vicariate of Northern Arabia: “Simple people who work hard”

Tuesday, 7 May 2024


By Antonella Prenna

Kuwait City (Agenzia Fides) - The Coptic Catholic community in Kuwait, which belongs to the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia, has over 5,000 members. "Our community has more than a hundred families with 150 children. But for economic reasons, most of the Coptic Catholics are workers who have come to Kuwait without their families because it would entail enormous costs that are not affordable," said Father Yassa Ghobrial, at the head of the Coptic Catholic community in Kuwait, at a meeting at the Co-Cathedral of the Holy Family (see Fides, 12/4/2024).

Participating in the long rites of the Coptic Catholic liturgy takes one back to the origins, to the first century AD. At Kuwait City Cathedral, Father Yassa's Coptic Catholic community has just celebrated Easter according to the Julian calendar (which fell on May 5 this year). The hours of chanting, sung by everyone from the youngest children to adults, and the sprinkling of incense and holy water conveyed the intensity of every moment of the celebration. “I am very grateful to Bishop Aldo Berardi (O.SS.T), our Vicar Apostolic for Northern Arabia, for all the support he gives to the entire community,” says Father Yassa. "Most Coptic Catholics here are very simple people who work hard and live a life of sacrifice to support their distant families. They often live with eight or ten people in a room and struggle every day for food, water and shelter.
The Church of the Holy Family is the only place where they can spend some time in a spirit of communion. Every year or two they return to their families to stay with them for a month or two."

The Coptic Catholic Church is a “sui iuris” Catholic Church of the Alexandrian Rite, bearing the title of Patriarch and in communion with the Church of Rome. The Christian community in Kuwait is largely composed of Asians from countries such as Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, as well as Arab Christians from Lebanon (Maronite and Melkite rites), Egypt (Coptic rites), Jordan, Palestine and Syria (Syrian, Melkite or Latin Rite). Maronite Christians, mostly Lebanese, also celebrate their services in the Catholic church in Kuwait City. A small group of Catholics come from Europe and America.

"In Egypt, of the 115 million inhabitants, there are more than a hundred million Muslims, around 13 million Orthodox Copts, 300,000 Protestant Copts and 300,000 Catholic Copts," explains the priest regarding the Church of origin. There are nine Coptic Catholic dioceses in Egypt. Among the Catholics in Egypt, after the Coptic Catholics, the most numerous are the Latin Rite Catholics, which also include groups of Sudanese refugees. In Maadi there is a Coptic Catholic seminary with 23 seminarians and many Catholic schools. In contrast, there are only a few Catholic hospitals. The Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria, Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, sent Father Yassa to the Vicariate of Northern Arabia on August 15, 2022 to offer his service to the Coptic Catholic community at the Co-Cathedral of the Holy Family.

After his ordination on June 10, 2000, Father Ghobrial was assigned to the parish of the Cathedral of Divine Mercy in Upper Egypt, where he served as parish priest for 8 years. He then worked as a parish priest in the Church of the Virgin Mary, also in Upper Egypt, for ten years. After serving in Europe, first in Ireland and then in London, he returned to Egypt and served as parish priest at St. George's Church for a year and as parish priest at St. Theresa's Church for 5 years. (Agenzia Fides 7/5/2024)