Construction of a new church to replace one of the oldest in the UAE will be completed in Abu Dhabi early next year.
The St George Orthodox Cathedral building in Mushrif was demolished in September last year. A foundation stone was laid for the new one and construction started in December.
Church authorities said nearly 40 per cent of the building work is complete. Meanwhile, regular services are being held in a purpose-built hall next to the construction site.
Rev Father Eldho Paul, the vicar at St George's, told The National that worshippers will be able to pray in the new cathedral by May next year.
With an estimated cost of Dh25 million, the project is being fully funded by the church members.
It recently received a Dh1 million donation from prominent Indian businessman Yusuff Ali, chairman of the retail giant LuLu Group.
“I have no words to thank our community members who are fully behind this project,” Fr Paul said.
“But my biggest gratitude is for the leadership of this country that has set an example for tolerance and religious coexistence for the rest of the world.”
The UAE, which has a diverse population of more than 200 nationalities from different religious and ethnic backgrounds, offers freedom to practise different faiths.
There are approximately 40 churches of various denominations in the UAE, including three Hindu temples, a Sikh temple and a Buddhist temple.
First phase complete
The first phase of construction, which cost approximately Dh9 million and includes a parsonage block, vicar's accommodation, VIP rooms, offices, meeting rooms, storage and infrastructure for water and electricity supply and a boundary wall, is complete.
The second phase, the main cathedral building, will cost Dh16 million.
Fr Paul said a larger building was needed to cater for the increase in worshippers.
Currently, the church serves about 1,600 to 1,800 families, with more than 6,000 worshippers attending weekly services. The new cathedral will have capacity for more than 2,000 people.
St George Orthodox Cathedral is one of the oldest churches in the UAE.
“In fact, it is older than the UAE as our first parish was formed in 1968,” said Fr Paul.
In 1970, the first church was established in the Khalidiya area after UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, laid the foundation stone.
It was moved to its current location in Mushrif in 1983 and elevated to a cathedral in 2004.