Monday, April 14, 2008

Catholic churches coming to Saudi Arabia?

In a medium-long article about the delayed but still arriving "Arab Spring," Abe Greenwald notes,
[T]he Vatican has confirmed that it’s in negotiations with Saudi Arabia to establish the first Catholic Church inside the Kingdom.
Well, zing! As you know, it is presently against Saudi law for any non-Muslim congregation to meet in the kingdom. Even house churches there are illegal, and the penalties can be quite severe. (In fact, mere possession of a Bible is illegal.)

Abe documents how Islamism in in retreat almost everywhere in the Muslim world, being steadily rejected by the ummah every opportunity they get to do so. I remember reading (I think on Michael Yon's site) of an Anbar sheik who said the Sunnis in Iraq had become so lethally oppressed by al Qaeda that even the shephers in the desert hated al Qaeda. "And the shepherds a hundred years from now will still hate al Qaeda."

But back to the church in Saudi Arabia. The Telegraph reports:
Archbishop Mounged El-Hachem, the papal envoy to Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates said talks had started a few weeks ago, in the wake of King Abdullah’s visit to Pope Benedict last November.

Currently, all Saudi citizens are required by law to be Muslim, and the Mutaween, or religious police, strictly prohibits the public practice of non-Muslim religions.

The last Christian priest was expelled from the kingdom in 1985.

However, the Vatican’s relationship with the Muslim world is improving rapidly, and Qatar opened its first Catholic church on Sunday.

Mgr El-Hachem said a church in Saudi Arabia would be an important sign of “reciprocity” between the faiths.
The Times OnLine site has this:
Not by chance, the disclosure came just after the first Catholic church in Qatar, Our Lady of the Rosary, was inaugurated at a mass in the seaside capital of Doha attended by 15,000 people and held by Cardinal Ivan Dias, head of the Congregation for Evangelisation, who presented a chalice sent by Pope Benedict XVI. ...

This would involve negotiations for the "authorisation of the building of Catholic churches" in Saudi Arabia, he said. Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said he could not confirm that the two sides were "in negotiations" but added: "If, as we hope, we reach an agreement authorising the construction of the first church in Saudi Arabia, it will be a step of historic importance."

The way was paved not only by King Abdullah's talks with the Pope but also more recently by the setting up of a permanent Catholic-Muslim Forum to repair relations between the two faiths after the Pope's controversial remarks on Islam at Regensburg University in 2006.

The Pope said his apparent reference to Islam as inherently violent and inhumane had been "misunderstood," and he made amends by praying at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul shortly afterwards. He has called however for "reciprocal" gestures by the Muslim side, such as greater tolerance for Christian minorities in Muslim countries.

Vatican Radio said the opening of the church in Qatar was "an event of historical importance after 14 centuries". The church, which bears no crosses or bells, stands on land donated to the Church by Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who favours interreligious dialogue.
Yet, as Abe Greenwald points out, the West is decidedly behind when it comes to whose religion is waxing, and where.
The only places we’re faced with renewed Islamic radicalization are in the Muslim enclaves of the West. The Archbishop of Canterbury speaks about the inevitability of sharia in England; France is at a semi-permanent boil of ghettoized Islamic discontent; last month a week of cartoon-inspired riots in Denmark was capped off by a (shockingly unpublicized) bomb in Copenhagen; Canada’s courts are clotted either by alleged terrorists or by “human rights” violators who dare criticize the alleged terrorists; and in Lodi, California more and more Muslim families are home schooling their daughters so that they may “clean and cook for [their] male relatives” and also “to isolate their adolescent and teenage daughters from the corrupting influences that they see in much of American life.”

As Qur’anic government has been a demonstrable failure everywhere it’s arisen, the West is becoming one of the last places in which fanatical Muslims are safe enough and comfortable enough to indulge in the decadence of their caliphate fantasies.
Read the whole thing.

Jesus is served

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