Catholics Begin to Build New Church in the Emirates

New church will serve thousands of Catholics living and working around the Arab capital.

Bishop Paul Hinder blesses the cornerstone of a new UAE church.
Bishop Paul Hinder blesses the cornerstone of a new UAE church. (photo: St. Joseph's Cathedral of Abu Dhabi)

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Catholics in the town of Mussafah in the United Arab Emirates have begun construction on a new church dedicated to St. Paul.

Bishop Paul Hinder, the apostolic vicar of Southern Arabia, blessed the church’s cornerstone on June 29 in the presence of the local Catholic community, including priests and religious missionaries.

“God dwells in each person ... and with faith and love [is] gathering us together in this new church,” Bishop Hinder said. The bishop said he hoped the love of Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit would enable the “speedy” completion of the church, expected to be finished in two years.

Mussafah is an industrial town southwest of the capital city Abu Dhabi. Catholics in Mussafah must travel 23 miles to attend religious services at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Abu Dhabi.

Approximately 3,500 Catholic families and 15,000 Catholic laborers live around Abu Dhabi. Many are guest workers from Africa, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and the Philippines, but some are local Arabs, George Puthussery, press officer for the Abu Dhabi-based Vicariate of Southern Arabia, told Catholic News Agency.

In 2011, the local government of Abu Dhabi granted a land area of 1.1 acres for the construction of the parish church.

St. Paul’s Church would be the second parish in the Abu Dhabi area. For almost 50 years, Catholics living around Abu Dhabi have had to depend solely on St. Joseph’s Cathedral.

Puthussery said St. Paul's will make attending church “easy” for the working residents of the area.

The Vicariate of Southern Arabia covers the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen, where the population is primarily Muslim. Forty-six priests serve about 7 million Catholics in the vicariate. They celebrate 18 Masses in the vicariate each Sunday in various languages.

The construction of St. Paul’s Church follows the opening of another Catholic church in the United Arab Emirates.

In June, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, consecrated St. Anthony of Padua Church in the northeastern town of Jazirat Al Hamra on the Persian Gulf.

The Holy See and the United Arab Emirates established full diplomatic relations in 2007.

The Earth is Not Our Mother

“The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate.”—G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy