Bahrain’s new Catholic Cathedral serves as a symbol of a constant pursuit of religious inclusivity and liberality.

The new Catholic church, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia, which was recently inaugurated, has gathered worldwide attention from the international Catholic community and has seen locals and expats flocking to the new national landmark.

The building was completed almost nine years after 9,000sq/m of land was donated by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa for the initiative. Bahrain, known in the Middle East for being one of the most inclusive nations in terms of religious faith, has been hailed once again for its tolerance and commitment to peaceful coexistence and caring for the Christian community in providing a dedicated space for them to worship.

The church, which has a capacity for 2,300 people, includes a residence for the bishop and a courtyard which can accommodate up to 6,000 visitors. It was designed by an Italian architect named Mattia Del Prete, who expressed his delight at the completion of the project saying he felt joyous and full of emotion and drawing attention to how the light changes the colour and atmosphere throughout the day.

Shaikh Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa was chosen by his father, His Majesty King Hamad, to inaugurate the complex in the presence of Bishop Paul Hinder and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation of the Evangelisation of Peoples and representative of Pope Francis, as well as other senior officials.

The Bishop stressed the success of the inauguration, intimating his joy and gratitude to have such a wonderful and extraordinary building that he is sure will be a highlight in the Kingdom.

The church, located at Awali, resembles a tent as described in the Old Testament in which the prophet Moses welcomed his people. The walls are made with a special stone called Pietra Serena, a type of sandstone solely crafted in Florence and frequently used in Florentine renaissance architecture. An octagonal dome serves as a canopy for the cathedral, a new congregational haven for the 80,000 Catholic residents of the island.

Dr. Shaikh Khalid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence, applauded the country’s efforts towards diversity and inclusivity during the opening ceremony. He emphasised the event as evidence of Bahrain’s keenness on tolerance and peaceful coexistence between differing faiths and praised the achievement as an encouraging and welcoming gesture.

Father Xavier Marian D’Souza, Parish Priest at Manama’s Sacred Heart Church, further acknowledged the kingdom’s leap forward as an event that has deepened its pioneering and distinguished role regionally and globally in terms of coexistence. He highlighted the fact that the Catholics residing in Bahrain as well as people of other faiths, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism, find a refuge in Bahrain amid the acceptance and embrace of the peace-loving Bahraini people. ✤