New Catholic church to open in Ras Al Khaimah next week

The religious community has lauded the opening of a second Catholic church in RAK as a sign of the UAE's religious tolerance.

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RAS AL KHAIMAH // The emirate's Catholic community will get a new place of worship when a second church opens its doors next week.

The church, dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua, will be consecrated to coincide with the saint's feast day on Thursday.

The ceremony will be performed by Archbishop Petar Rajic, Apostolic Nuncio to the Arabian Peninsula, the UAE's Bishop Paul Hinder and Cardinal Fernando Filoni, a senior Vatican figure who spent many years in Iraq.

Dignitaries from the Vatican and priests from neighbouring emirates and the GCC will also attend.

The church will be open to all  from this Friday. Masses will be conducted in English with services in Malayalam, Tagalog, Tamil, Konkani, Arabic and Sinhalese.

The old chapel, in Al Nakheel area, was built to accommodate 500 parishioners but serves more than 5,000 Catholics of various nationalities.

After noting the growth of the Catholic community, the government of RAK made plots available to the diocese in 2007.

The new church in Al Jazeera and Al Hamra area is 30 kilometres south of the old location, making it more easily accessible to worshippers from northern areas.

It has been built to accommodate about 1,500 worshippers and a basement hall will be used for other church activities. Accommodation for priests and support staff has also been built.

A third building will be used for prayer meetings and catechism classes.

Saint Anthony, a 13th century Franciscan priest, is celebrated as the patron saint of lost items and people.

Canon Andy Thompson, of St Andrew's Anglican church in Abu Dhabi, said the Government was very generous with all faiths and had gifted land to build places of worship.

"There are about 40 centres of worship in the UAE," Canon Thompson said. "This is much more than any other GCC country at the moment.

"If this is taken as a measurement, the UAE's religious tolerance is a mountain higher than any other GCC country."