Catholic News Agency | Manama
The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com
Vatican Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle today consecrated the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia in Bahrain, describing it as “a living sign of God’s concern for his flock”.
The prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples celebrated a live mass in the arch-shaped cathedral on December 10, the day after its inauguration by Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the King of Bahrain, who given the land as a gift to the Catholic community.
“My dear brothers and sisters, we praise God for the gift of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia. It is a living sign of God’s concern for his flock, ”declared the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
“The Holy Father, Pope Francis and the Catholic community of Bahrain thank His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa for maintaining the tradition of the royal family of supporting the Catholic Church and for donating of the land on which the cathedral stands today. . “
The consecration marked the end of a journey started on February 11, 2013, feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, when the decision to build the cathedral was taken.
Bishop Camillo Ballin, then Apostolic Vicar of North Arabia, decided that the cathedral should be dedicated to Our Lady of Arabia.
The cathedral is part of an approximately 95,000 square foot complex in Awali, a small municipality in the center of the country, located in eastern Saudi Arabia and western Qatar. The church is near a desert oil field.
There are approximately 80,000 Catholics in Bahrain, many of whom are migrants from Asia, particularly the Philippines and India.
Bishop Ballin died in April 2020, at the age of 75, before seeing his dream of a cathedral dedicated to Our Lady of Arabia come true in Bahrain.
Tagle, a 64-year-old Filipino cardinal, paid homage to the late Italian bishop in his homily, as well as to Bishop Paul Hinder, apostolic vicar of South Arabia, who was present at the mass.
Tagle said: “We remember with gratitude the late Bishop Camillo Ballin who initiated this project, now successfully completed by Bishop Paul Hinder, to whom we are also grateful.”
A focal point of the cathedral, the largest in the Gulf region, will be an astonishing polychrome statue of Our Lady of Arabia.
The title of Our Lady of Arabia was approved in 1948. A small chapel in Ahmadi, Kuwait, was consecrated with the title on December 8 of the same year.
In 1957, Pius XII issued a decree proclaiming Our Lady of Arabia the principal patroness of the territory and of the Apostolic Vicariate of Kuwait.
In 2011, the Vatican officially proclaimed Our Lady of Arabia patron of the vicariates of Kuwait and Arabia.
Later that year, the Holy See reorganized the Vicariate of Kuwait, renaming it the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia and including the territories of Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Bishop Ballin’s episcopal see moved from Kuwait to Bahrain, for logistical reasons but also practical, because Bahrain has a significant Christian presence, estimated at around 15% of the population.
The King of Bahrain’s special envoy, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, had an audience with Pope Francis on November 25. According to Agenzia Fides, the envoy invited the Pope to visit the country, which has 1.7 million inhabitants.
Concluding his homily, Tagle said: “With the dedication of the Cathedral, we also dedicate each of you, your families and the community, to the life and service of Jesus Christ. “
“May our Blessed Mother, Mary, Our Lady of Arabia, who is the model disciple of her Son Jesus, keep your hearts in her Immaculate Heart. May the living stones of the Catholic community contribute to the strengthening of solidarity, unity and fraternity in Bahrain.