Report: Saudi Arabia signs deal with Vatican to build churches for Christians—UPDATED

Report: Saudi Arabia signs deal with Vatican to build churches for Christians—UPDATED May 4, 2018

The Vatican has yet to confirm this report, but if true, it’s huge:

In wake of wide Saudi Arabian cultural and social global openness, for the first time in the country’s history it has signed a cooperative agreement with the Vatican to build churches for Christian citizens to advocate the important role of religions and cultures in renouncing violence, extremism, terrorism and achieving security and stability in the world.

The agreement was signed by the Secretary General of the Muslim World League Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdel Karim Al-Issa and the President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue in the Vatican and the French cardinal of the Catholic Church Jean-Louis Tauran to achieve mutual goals between both sides.

The agreement also states that a coordinating joint committee will be established comprising two representatives for both sides to organize future meetings. The committee is expected to be held once every two years and its meetings will be alternated between Rome and a city chosen by the Islamic World League, according to the Saudi Arabian press.

The historic visit also included a meeting with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohamed Bin Salman in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

The Daily Mail adds:

There was no immediate confirmation from the Vatican. MailOnline has approached Vatican and Saudi authorities for comment but they have not yet responded.

Saudi Arabia’s anti-extremism Etidal centre hosted Cardinal Tauran last month as the crown prince pushes for inter-religious exchange in the ultra-conservative Sunni kingdom.

There are no Christian churches in Saudi Arabia, the only country in the region without one.

The Vatican has previously spoken of its wish to provide the Christian population of Saudi Arabia with the ability to worship.

During the visit earlier this year Riyadh-based Etidal, the Arabic acronym for the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, discussed with the cardinal its use of media and technology to ‘disrupt extremist recruitment and promote tolerance’, a government statement said.

‘I think we have two enemies: extremism and ignorance,’ Tauran was quoted as saying in the statement, while lauding the centre that was established in 2017.

‘I don’t believe in the clash of civilisation but rather in the clash of ignorance. Most of the time people react because they don’t know who you are or who they are.’

Tauran, seen as an energetic promoter of dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and Islam, also met Saudi King Salman in the capital.

UPDATE: John Allen clarifies that this story is “bogus.” Details here. 

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