Thousands Pack into New Catholic Church in United Arab Emirates

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There was a huge outpouring an faith and devotion as more than 8,500 worshippers from across the United Arab Emirates celebrated the first Mass at the emirate’s new Catholic church on Friday the 14th June 2013.

It was one of the biggest ever turnouts, with residents travelling from across the country despite the summer heat for the consecration of the Saint Anthony of Padua Church in Jazirat Al Hamra.

Residents from Dubai and Abu Dhabi, many of whom had taken the bus with family and friends, arrived an hour before the 10am mass to find a place in the 1,200-seat basement auditorium.

Hundreds of others queued up in the aisles, sat on the staircase and stood in the shaded grounds to listen to the prayers and hymns being relayed on a large screen.

Thomas Matthew, from India, had taken a bus with 31 other residents of Abu Dhabi to attend the inauguration.

“It is our pleasure to be here,” said Mr Matthew, who normally attends Friday mass at St Joseph’s Church.

“We have the Holy Father’s representative here from Rome. I could not miss the opportunity of being at the consecration of a church.”

The ceremony was led by Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for Evangelisation of Peoples at the Vatican; Archbishop Petar Rajic, Apostolic Nuncio to the Arabian Peninsula, and Bishop Paul Hinder, from the UAE.”I was a little bit afraid when I saw the plan of this church,” said Bishop Hinder. “I thought it was big for Ras Al Khaimah, but at least today it is too small.”

The congregation was welcomed by Cardinal Filoni, who gave a message from the Pope, after which worshippers sang with the choir the hymn Praise to the Lord.

“This is a historic moment,” said the Cardinal. “It is a wonderful day, the day God prepared for us.”

He reminded parishioners about living in harmony.

“We come from different nationalities, but here we are as one.”

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