Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, consecrated the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia in Bahrain on Friday, December 10.
In his homily during the celebration, the cardinal described the cathedral as “a living sign of God’s care for his flock.”
On December 9, the ark-shaped cathedral was inaugurated by Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the King of Bahrain, who gave the land as a gift to the Catholic community.
In behalf of the Holy Father and the Catholic community in the country, Cardinal Tagle thanked the king “for maintaining the tradition of the royal family of support to the Catholic Church.”
The cathedral is part of a complex of about 95,000 square feet in Awali, a small municipality in the center of the country, which is located to the east of Saudi Arabia and west of Qatar.
There are an estimated 80,000 Catholics in Bahrain, many of whom are migrants from Asia, particularly the Philippines and India.
Cardinal Tagle paid tribute to the late Italian bishop, Camillo Ballin, who initiated the project, and Bishop Paul Hinder, vicar apostolic of Southern Arabia.
“We acknowledge the work of the project team, the architects, the constructors, artists, and many benefactors. May God bless and reward you a hundredfold,” said the cardinal.
“The dedication of a church signifies that the church, the building, is now reserved for sacred activities, for the glory of God and the sanctification of God’s people,” he added.
He explained that “a church is usually called ‘the House of God,’ and therefore, the house of God’s family.”
A focal point of the cathedral, the largest in the Gulf region, will be a striking polychrome statue of Our Lady of Arabia.
The title of Our Lady of Arabia was approved in 1948. A small chapel in Ahmadi, Kuwait, was dedicated to the title on December 8 of that year.
In 1957, Pius XII issued a decree proclaiming Our Lady of Arabia the main patron saint of the territory and of the Apostolic Vicariate of Kuwait.
In 2011, the Vatican officially proclaimed Our Lady of Arabia the patron saint of the vicariates of Kuwait and Arabia.
Later that year, the Holy See reorganized the Vicariate of Kuwait, giving it the new name of Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia and including the territories of Qatar, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.
Bishop Ballin’s episcopal see therefore moved from Kuwait to Bahrain, for logistical but also practical reasons, as Bahrain has a significant Christian presence, estimated to be around 15 percent of the population.
“With the dedication of the cathedral, we also dedicate each one of you, your families, and the community, to the life and service of Jesus Christ,” said Cardinal Tagle in his homily.
“May our blessed Mother, Mary, Our Lady of Arabia, who is the model disciple of her Son, Jesus, keep your hearts in her Immaculate Heart. May the living stones of the Catholic community contribute to the strengthening of solidarity, unity, and fraternity in Bahrain.” – from a Catholic News Agency report