Middle East

Saudi inks deal with Vatican to build churches

Saudi Arabia was the only Gulf state with no public Christian places of worship. Saudi has entered into a deal with Vatican to build churches in the Gulf region.

“This is the beginning of a rapprochement… It is a sign that the Saudi authorities are now ready to give a new image to the country,” President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, told the Vatican News website after returning from Riyadh.

The agreement was was signed between local Wahhabi leaders and a Vatican cardinal to establish a cooperative relationship. The deal signed between Tauran and Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdel Karim Al-Issa, Secretary General of the Muslim World League, has also outlined plans for Muslim-Christian summits once every two years and for greater rights for non-Islamic worshippers in the Gulf kingdom.

At present, non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia are punished for any displays of their religion outside of their homes, while any Muslim who decides to convert to another faith is subject to a death sentence for apostasy. More than 1.5 million Christians are believed to be residing in the country, mostly from the Philippines.