A Church for Qatar
Situated on land donated by the emir -- yet without any crosses or campanile marking its exterior -- the church of the Our Lady of the Rosary was inaugurated in a five-hour Mass celebrated by the Vatican's Missions Czar Cardinal Ivan Dias, who served as papal legate.
As the Indian cardinal presented a relic of St Pio of Pietrelcina as a gift to the community, wire reports noted that some among the congregation wept.
The Mass was conducted in English, but prayers were also said in Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Tagalog, Spanish and French for the many nationalities that would worship in the church.
Dozens of police were deployed around the church, which cost some $20 million, and female officers searched the handbags of women worshippers.
Western embassies, particularly from the United States and Britain, warned nationals living in Qatar to be extra vigilant after an Islamic militants on the Internet made threats linked to the opening of the church.
The US Embassy on Thursday released a warning that the new church might be targeted.
"Extremists may elect to use conventional or non-conventional weapons and target both official and private interests. Examples of such targets include ... the new Christian Church complex in Doha," it said.
Worshippers said they were not concerned by the threats....
Qatar is a close ally of Washington and hosts the command headquarters for US forces in the Middle East.
In the United Arab Emirates, meanwhile, police were seen on Saturday guarding one of the main churches in bustling Dubai and searching worshippers entering the compound. Police closed off access to cars around St. Mary's Church, and signs were put up in the street directing motorists to park their vehicles in other specified places.
A priest who asked not to be identified told AFP there had been no threat against the church and the security deployment was a preventive measure. Policemen said the "precautionary" moves would last until March 25, after Easter....
[T]he papal nuncio in the Gulf, Archbishop Paul-Munjed al-Hashem, said on the sidelines of the Doha Mass that talks had begun with Riyadh to convince it to become the final Gulf Arab state to allow churches.
"Discussions are under way with Saudi Arabia to allow the construction of churches in the kingdom," he said, adding that the country had between 3 and 4 million Christian residents. "We cannot forecast the outcome."
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