Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Jun 18, 2015 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The inauguration and blessing of a new parish in the capital of the United Arab Emirates last week was met with jubilation, as the church will be a boon to the thousands of migrant Catholics working and living on the outskirts of the city.
“We thank the rulers for providing an attractive environment where Christians feel accepted and are able to live their own identity and to practice their religious beliefs,” said Bishop Paul Hinder, Vicar Apostolic of Southern Arabia, at the June 11 consecration.
“The mission of the Church is to do everything possible to foster the human capital of the Christian faithful and to make them strong in the pursuit of truth and moral behaviour and thus able to better serve the country.”
St. Paul parish was consecrated by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, in the presence of Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE's minister for culture, youth, and community development.
The following day, more than 5,000 faithful gathered for a Mass of Thanksgiving. The parish is located in Mussafah, a satellite town of Abu Dhabi, nearly 19 miles from the city center.
St. Paul’s can accommodate 1,200 faithful, and was constructed on land donated by the government of Abu Dhabi. It spans more than 49,000 square feet. The complex also includes within its premises a three-story building that houses a multipurpose hall, a residence for priests, and meeting rooms.
The church is expected to serve the approximately 60,000 to 70,000 faithful who live in the surrounding industrial area. Many of the Catholics in the area are guest workers from Africa, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and the Philippines, though some are local Arabs.
Along with daily Masses in English, St. Paul will also have weekly Masses in Arabic, Konkani, Malayalam, and Tagalog; fortnightly Masses in Tamil; and monthly Masses in Konkani.
Speaking at the inauguration, Cardinal Parolin said: “I think Christians who live in this country need opportunities to give witness of faith and to grow in their faith … they may be strengthened in their efforts to grow in their faith, and be charitable to others.”
Cardinal Parolin also noted that “The number of Christian faithful in the UAE is growing, and even though they come from many national and ethnic groups, languages, and cultures, yet they are brought together in unity by their Catholic faith.”
Cardinal Parolin emphasized that “Our lives are closely linked to people of other religions and we seek to promote peaceful coexistence of peoples as we endeavour to become a global fraternity of nations with the common goal of building human society upon the noble principles of justice, peace, prosperity, and equality for all.”
Bishop Hinder thanked the president of the UAE, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the UAE government for their generosity and graciousness in granting the land and necessary permits, and for the stability, security, and peace enjoyed in the country.
Bishop Hinder noted, “Wealth is only a blessing when it is administered with a high sense of responsibility by well-qualified and dedicated leaders.”
“The Catholic Church is not simply a praying community but forms its followers in respect for life, care for the environment, honesty and dedication,” Bishop Hinder continued. “Working together in mutual respect, we can all contribute to the prosperity and peace of the country.”
Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan observed that the opening of St. Paul's highlights the religious tolerance of the UAE's leaders. He praised the leadership of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the previous president and father of the current president, saying he was guided by wisdom, courage, prudence, temperance, loyalty, justice, and generosity.
He also referred to Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan's declaration that the UAE has, and will continue, to rely on the diversity of its people, voicing hope that the parishioners of St. Paul's would bring unique identities and commitments to the country's cosmopolitan society.
“Our leadership knows its true wealth and accepts the obligation to respect and understand the many religious beliefs of the people living in this country,” Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan further said. “I believe that each of you can provide evidence that the leaders of the UAE are fulfilling that obligation.”
Around 76 percent of the population of the UAE is Muslim, while Christians constitute around nine percent. There are also sizable minorities of Hindus and Buddhists.
St. Paul's is the second parish in Abu Dhabi, following St. Joseph's Cathedral in the city's center. Its lot was granted by the Municipality of Abu Dhabi, with construction starting in 2013.
The Vicariate Apostolic of Southern Arabia serves the more than 2 million Catholics in the UAE, Oman, and Yemen.