The Catholic Community in Saudi Arabia


The Catholic Community in Saudi Arabia is part of the family of the Universal Church whose spiritual head is the Pope. On May 31, 2011, according to a decree of the Holy See, Saudi Arabia was detached from the Apostolic Vicariate of Arabia and included in the newly-formed ecclesiastical territory of the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia. The Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia is under the pastoral care and guidance of His Lordship Bishop Camillo Ballin, MCCJ.

According to an unofficial census, there are estimated to be more than 1.5 million Roman Catholics in Saudi Arabia. All the Christians/Catholics are expatriate workers from various parts of the world, notably the Philippines and India.

Saudi Arabia is an Islamic state. The ethnic Saudi population is a hundred percent Muslim. There are no Saudi Christians at all and Islam is the only permitted religion. As yet, Saudi Arabia does not have official diplomatic ties with the Holy See. In a way, Saudi Arabia has indirect relations with the Vatican, as international conferences like the one in Madrid, prove. In 2007, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia visited the Pope at the Vatican gifting him a gold sword during his half-hour audience. Their discussion focused on the affinity between Islam and Christianity pertaining to issues such as the family and peace in the Middle East. This was the first ever audience by the head of the Roman Catholic Church with a Saudi monarch.

As Saudi Arabia is home to Islam's holiest sites, it does not permit churches to be built, as a result there are no Christian churches or places of worship. Non-Islamic religion is not recognized and its public display or activity is prohibited. The Catholic community respects the sensitivities of the region and has always maintained a low profile. Relations with the local authorities are generally good. The country allows Roman Catholics and Christians of other denominations to enter the country as foreign workers for temporary work.

The situation of the Church in Saudi Arabia is similar to that of the early Christian communities.




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