Reports emerge that Saudi Arabia has struck a deal with the Vatican to build churches in the Arab Kingdom. Saudi Arabia is home to Islam’s holiest sites Mecca and Medina. For now, there are no churches in the Arab country. Saudi Kingdom is the only country in the Middle East without churches.
Under the agreement, a joint committee will be established. This committee will be made up of representatives from Vatican and the Saudi Kingdom. Reportedly, the agreement between Vatican and the Saudi Kingdom was signed on April 14.
Media reports that Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdel Karim Al-Issa of the Muslim World League and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue during a meeting formally agreed by signing the agreement.
Vatican News reported Cardinal Tauran said: “During my meetings, I insisted very much that Christians and non-Muslims are spoken of well in schools and that they are never considered second-class citizens”. Cardinal Tauran also met with the Saudi Royal Family, and urged the Royals to treat all citizens equally. This was the first time that Saudi king met with such a high-profile official from the Vatican.
Cardinal Tauran told Vatican News that he believed that the authorities in Saudi Arabia wanted “to show that even in Saudi Arabia there is the possibility of discussion, and therefore of changing the country’s image.” Saudi Arabia is the only country in the region where building churches, possessing Bibles or openly getting engaged in any form of Christian worship is banned. The Vatican urged the Saudi officials to strive for building churches in the Kingdom as large number of foreigners who are Christians by faith come to Saudi Arabia for work.