Welcome To Church Of Our Lady Of Rosary
Qatar is a peninsula bordering Saudi Arabia, with an area of 22,000 sq. km., and 350,000 inhabitants. It gained independence on 3 September 1971. The region is mostly a desert. The meagre incomes earned by traditional occupations rearing of cameis, pearl fishery, production of dates, and dry fish – were given a boost by the discovery of oil in 1949. The oil is collected from the well in Dukhan and piped to Umm Said, which serves both as a harbour and refinery centre. The Sheikhdom is ruled by a hereditary monarch of a royal family, which concentrates all power in its hands according to a constitution written in 1970. Doha is the Capital. The missionaries used to visit the Christian communities of Qatar from Bahrain. A permanent presence began with Fr. Adriano Benini in December 1970.
When Bishop Gremoli made his first pastoral visit in July 1976 he found a large community of Christians. in 1978 Fr. Adriano was succeeded by Fr. Kevin Mulhearn an English diocesan priest. He was able to gather a community of 5,000. Besides conducting services in the capital, Doha, Fr. Kevin extended his pastoral care, in continuance of the work of Fr. Adriano, to Dukhan – the oil centre and Umm Said – the refinery 50 km. from Doha. He organised services in private homes as it was impossible to have a church.
In 1980 Fr. Kevin was replaced by Fr. Timothy Cestello, an American Capuchin who was deported by the authorities a few months later. In the meantime, the Catholic population had increased to 6,000, composed of people of many countries, but most of them (nearly 90%) from India. As permission for a resident priest could not be obtained, Fr. Kevin returned for a time. He remained in Doha for six months, entrusted with the responsibility of preparing lay ministers. In this he was eminently successful. When he lef1 Qatar for good on 26 May 1981, there was a good organisation to carry on the pastoral care of the Catholic communities.
Finally, on 4 November 1981, the Apostolic Vicar succeeded in finding a priest to reside in Qatar. He was English by nationality, and this had the right to reside in the country for a month, the priest was Fr. Gerard Dunne of the Mill Hill Fathers. In spite of his age (he had spent many years in Kenya and Borneo), he undertook the task of remaining in Doha for a month, leaving it for a couple of hours, and returning to start another period of stay, thus making the most of the concession granted to British subjects.
The government, while tolerating the presence of a priest in the country, would not permit a fixed place for the celebration of the liturgy. Thus began the Masses-in-Homes, with small domestic congregations actively participating in the Eucharistic Sacrifice with exemplary piety. Fr. Dunne left Qatar on 16 August 1986. He was succeeded by Fr. Lesek Wisniewski, a British priest of Polish origin. Young and enterprising, he has given a great impetus to religious services, and organised catechism classes for children. He left for England in July 1989, and was succeeded by Fr. John Van Deerlin
Christianity In Arabia
The Arabia of olden times is not exactly identical to the one of today. Since in those days the boundaries were established on the basis of the ethnic people – normally nomadic – we can speak of an ethnographic Arabia which was much larger than the political and administrative one. In this sense, in the 7th century, it certainly reached up to Syria and to the north of Mesopotamia, where it is very easy to have contact with a Christian population. The Bible, too, speaks of Arabia of the same way. In fact, the writers of the Old Testament, unacquainted with the whole of Arabia, localized it in some ways by identifying it with the Arab tribes that existed nearest to them – in Palestine. Regarding its ethnic origin, it was identified sometimes with Cuscites ( Ethiopians) and at other times with the Camites and Semites (Gen. X:7,26-30;XXV:2-4, 13-15). Some were nomadic shepherds, others settled inhabitants. It was only after Ptolemy that Arabia began to be established as consisting of three parts: PETRA ARABIA covering the north-western sector and the Sinaitic peninsula; DESERT ARABIA, i.e. the Middle East region; and ARABIA FELIX, corresponding to the southern part. Petra Arabia, with its capital in Petra, became a Roman province. Not considering the presence of “Arabs” at Pentecost as mentioned in Act 2:1, we do not know how Christianity spread in Arabia in the first centuries. The Acts of the Apostles relate how St. Paul retired into Arabia soon after his conversion, and already, in the time of Caracalla- about 214 A.D. – one find an established bishopric in Basra. It was a center of a strong intellectual life, having frequent contacts with Origen, who was mentioned for the first time by the imperial legate himself. In the middle of the 3rd century, there were three synods of bishops – the sign of a strong and vibrant Christianity. At the Council of Calcedon in 451, twenty bishops were present, whose jurisdiction extended to the south of peninsula, i.e. up to Aden and Safar. Even amongst the so-called nomadic Arabs dispersed in Syria and Persia, Christianity had modest success in South Arabia, in the kingdom of Omer, where an Ethiopian viceroy represented the king of Aksum, and where the preaching (about 356) of Bishop Theophilus, an Indian made a deep impression. Another christisn centre, more inland – near the Syrian caravan route – was Najran. However, because of the largely nomadic nature of the population and the strong pressure from the Arabs, a complete Christianisation of the region was not possible. Thus, when, in the beginning of the 6th century (522-523), the Prince Dhu Nuwas, an Hebrew, came to power, there was a great uprising against the Christians, and a massacre in Safar and Naajran. According to reports, there were at least 4000 Christians martyred, indicating a very strong Christian presence there. In Safar, all the clergy were massacred, and the church was turned in to a Synagogue. At this moment, Kaleb, the King of Ethiopia, intervened. He deposed and killed the persecutor, appointed a viceroy, and ethiopianised the region to such an extent that even today Muslims use words and terms with evident Ethiopian roots to designate objects of cult and piety. Yemen again rose in revolt to shake off the Abyssinian yoke and attain independence. This time, a Christian named Abraha, who was in alliance with Byzantium, took a firm hold. He transferred the capital from Zafar to Sana’a, where he constructed a very beautiful cathedral modeled on the church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was later demolished by Muslims. He then decided to destroy Mecca, which he attacked with asquadron of elephants. This episode is mentioned in the Koran in Sura 105. this could throw some light o the life and times of Mohammad. It was at the time when the poet Kuss Ben Saida, a great preacher with Nestorian learnings, was Bishop of Najran. Mohammad might have been amongst his audience. It is an undisputed fact that there was a substantial presence of Christianity in Arabia, and it lasted up to the arrival of Islam in the land. Its presence was not much in evidence in the south of the peninsula. In the Nageb it arrived only in yhe 6th century, while it never reached Higiaz. The few Christians who settled down there were adventurers and primitive people, many of whom were slaves. There was no clergy or any hierarchical organization. One of these settlers seems to have constructed the top of the Kaaba, Mohammad was still a young man. Another was the cousin of Kadija, the first wife of Mohammed. Many bore Christian names. When the story of Azraqui was written, there was a Christian cemetery in Mecca. In Mecca; as well as Medina, there was certainly a small Christian community.other Christians are found in Taima, in the valley of Wadial-Qura, along the commercial route of Higiaz, where there was a possibility of meeting the monks of the tribe of bamu Udra, amongst whom the Bible was known, even though in a deformed way.
The disappearance of Christianity in the peninsula was not sudden, but gradual and progressive. It lasted longer in the north, where, even at the time immediately preceding the advent of Islam (636), churches were constructed. Among the cause of its disappearance, historians mention doctrinal differences and the lack of concentrated communities. Mohammad must surely have known Jews and Christians who were called “People of the Book”. In his teachings he included many elements of their religions, which are followed, even today by millions of his adherents. At The Gates Of Mecca On 8th February 1840, the Secretary of the Apostolic Delegate in Syria, Fr. Bonajunta Foguet of the Servites of Mary, wrote to the Propagation of Faith to say that he had come to know that in Jeddah there was a good number of Catholics without a priest. Hoping for an opportunity to open a mission there, he offered his services if it was difficult to find a volunteer. Jeddah Wasthen the principal port of Arabia – the meeting point for the pilgrims to and from Mecca and Medina. For this reason perhaps, according to the testimony of Fr. Serafini-a future collaborator of Fr. Foguet – there was a large presence of Europeans, especially merchants, who instinctively gather in place where there is a certain consistency of population. There must have been many Catholics amongst these. The Christian presence in Jeddah, however, had a very early orgin. It seems certain that there was a considerable Ethiopian influence along the eastern coast of the Red Sea from the early years of the 4th century, that is, from the conversion of Negus Azana. The Ethiopians had, in Mokka – the Red Sea port – the centre of their commerce, and most certainly it was here that Christianity was introduced. This is attested by the fact that, as we have seen in the first chapter, a certain Bishop Theophilus was sent from Byzantium as Ambassador to the Ethnarch of the Himarites, with a responsibility of building a church for the people living in the region of Marib and Zafar, who, most probably, were not sons of the soil.
The Christian community must have been sufficiently large, if, together with the Jews, they created serious problems for Mohammad himself. Later on, in fact, in the 6th century, after being influenced by Nestorianism, the Christians were haressed, gradually subdued, and finally made to disappear. There remained only a small community, attracted more by commerce than by the Church. The Propagation of the Faith not only welcomed the suggestion of Fr. Foguet and authorized him to proceed to Jeddah (15 June 1840), but also requested his Religious Institute to help him with an assistant. Fr. Pellegrino Serafini was chosen. He joined Fr. Foguet in Alexandria, and together they planned their transfer to Jeddah. Fr. Foguet was to go there first as he was already conversant in Arabic. The transfer of Fr.Foguet from Lebanon to Jeddah was made easier with the revival of the missions in the Middle-East after the disastrous situation in which they found themselves in the beginning of the century. several factors – political, economical, spiritual, psychological- contributed to this new impetus given to the Mission. On the political level, it was the decisive intervention of Napoleon. On 25 June 1802, he commissioned Talleyrand to sign a treaty with Esseid Ghalib Effendi, the Representative of the Sublime Porte at Istanbul. This treaty fully renewed the clauses imposed in the surrender of 1740, and amongst other provisions, conferred on General Bruno, the new Ambassador in Constsntinople, the care and protection of the Christians in Turkey. The disintegration of the Turkish empire and the Greek revolt in 1821, induced the European powers to intervene in the region. The battle of nocarino and the treaty of Adrianople were the consequences – they forced Turkey to review the problem of all Christians under its rule. In fact, in 1840 there was a marked improvement in the situation. Later on, the Crimean war, as is well known, deprived the Greek Orthodox Christians of some of the rights granted to them by the czar. A solemn treaty, ‘Khatt-Ihumayalan’, signed by the sultan in 1856, guaranteed, however, the equality of all Christians in the Turkish empire, their right to participate in all activites and their right to be represented in the Council of State. To these favourable political circumstances were added others factors – spiritual and psychological, equally important. The crisis in the Turkish Empire coincided with a decline in Islam. On the other hand, however, there was a revival of interest of oriental affairs in Europe which proved to be very beneficial to the cause of the missions. This favourable moment coincided with the time when Fr. Foguet was transferred from Lebanon to Jeddah. Fr. Foguet, dressed as en Arab, reached Suez where he had to wait a long time before before he could get a place in one of the boats that plied along the coast. The city was full of pilgrims directed to Mecca, the spiritual headquarters of Islam, where in 570 Abu’l-Hasim Tbn Adh Alla’h Al-Mohammad was born and where, according to a Muslim tradition, Abraham was called to sacrifice his son Isaac. He finally arrived there only on 27 January 1841 – six months after his departure from Lebanon, and after fourteen days of an adventurous voyage in the Red sea. In the meantime, the Christians’ situation in Jeddah had changed considerably. Of the ‘great number of Catholics’ he spoke about, only a shadow of them had remained. At the first mass celebrated by Fr. Foguet on January 31 in the residence of the French Consul, Mr. Fresnel, there were only four Catholics present. On the following Sunday there were seven. The number was too small for a mission which a few months previously was so promising that the Propagation of Faith had elevated it the status of a Vice-prefecture. What were the reasons? Again, it was politics that changed the situation.
France and England were not in favour of the emergence of a strong, independent Egypt, as that was upsetting the balance of power in the Middle East. A combined effort between the European and Ottoman powers constrained Mohammed Ali to abandon Syria and refrain from its expansionism, recognizing, however, his right to rule in Egypt. Jeddah, in turn, went back into the hands of the Turks, and the Christians left en masse. This exodus of Christians from Jeddah was also provoked by economic and commercial reasons. The opening of the Suez canal had signaled the end of the commerce in Jeddah. Ships no longer touched there, but proceeded directly to Aden. Jeddah became less and less a commercial centre; it was replaced by Aden. Fr. Serafini, who remained in Alexandria awaiting instruction from Fr. Foauet, went about the city, and Cairo listening to people and gathering informations. Thus he succeeded in having a more objective picture of the situation, and so he understood that there was no longer any point in having a mission in Jeddah. He was so convinced of it, that he started learning the English language, the language spoken in Aden and he wrote to the Propagation of the Faith that a mission post in Jeddah was pointless. Even Fr. Foguet finally realized that his presence in Jeddah was no longer necessary. He envisaged the transfer of the Mission to either Basrah ( Iraq) or Aden. Also Mgr. Massaja, in the brief stops he made in Jeddah, took view of the situation and approved the plan of the missionaries. He wrote: “In Jeddah, as in the whole of this coastal region, the mission will not only be useless, but the poor priests will be subject to continual harassment. They would have to cover their identity and work within closed doors”. Rome truted the missionaries, approved their suggestion, and opened the mission in Aden confinding to the servites Mary, on 3 April 1841 Following this, on15 May, Fr. Serafini-Apostolic Vice-prefect-set out from Cairo through the arid deserts, accompanied by 350camels, because hundreds of armedbadouins plundered small caravans, especially those of Europeans he arrived in Aden on 28 May 1841.
First Roman Catholic Church Opens in Qatar
Thousands of worshippers gathered in a long and emotional ceremony Saturday for the consecration of the first Roman Catholic church in the Gulf state of Qatar, ending decades of underground Christian worship in this Sunni Muslim and deeply conservative country.
A Cardinal presented the parish with a chalice offered by the Pope during the five-hour mass, and many worshippers wept when a relic of Catholic Saint Padre Pio da Pietrelcina was introduced in the church, dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary.
The 2,700-seat church was built on land donated by Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and five other buildings are under construction nearby for other Christian denominations in this oil-rich state where over 70% of the population are expatriate workers.
“I convey very special greetings from the Holy Father to the Emir,” said Cardinal Ivan Dias, the envoy of Pope Benedict XVI and the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
“Without his precious gift of a land to the Catholic community, we would not be here today,” Dias said.
Qatar follows the rigorous Wahabi teachings of Sunni Islam, and like neighboring Saudi Arabia had not previously authorized Christians to practice their faith openly.
A priest operated in Qatar since the 1960s without official approval, and the opening of the church Saturday appeared to be another sign of Qatar’s efforts to open up to the West as it seeks a bid for the summer Olympic Games in 2016.“It is a dream coming true,” said Bishop Bernardo Gremoli, a former vicar of Arabia who initiated the church project more than 20 years ago. Some 150,000 Christians of all denominations live in the emirate, over 90% of them Catholic expatriate workers from the Philippines, India and other Asian nations.“It is a wonderful day for us, we have been waiting for many, many years to have a proper place of worship,” said Indian resident Robert Rodriguez, one of about 10,000 people who gathered for the ceremony according to church estimates.Some 3,000 worshippers were packed inside the new domed building, which does not expose religious symbols such as a cross or a bell tower out of respect for the local sensitivities.The rest of the crowd stood outside the US15 million church, which in place of a steeple features a traditional “wind tower” — a large, ornate chimney that traps fresh breeze as a means to cool down traditional houses in the Gulf.Three dozen bishops and priests had gathered to celebrate the mass, which was conducted in English with prayers in the Tagalog language from the Philippines, Hindi, Arabic and other languages.
“This is a historic day for the Christian community,” said Filipino Imelda Ilotin. “It signifies that people can live together in peace and diversity if they are guided by illuminated rulers,” she said.
Designed and painted by Italian artists, including sacred art painter Valentino Vago, the church was described by Apostolic Nuncio Munjed Al Hachem as the most beautiful of the modern churches in the Middle East.
Gremoli, the bishop who carried the relic of Padre Pio to Qatar, said it was the first-ever holy relic to be sent from Rome to a church of the Arabian Peninsula. He did not specify what the relic of the twentieth-century Italian Catholic saint was.
Catholic Church Of Our Lady Of Rosary…..
P.O BOX 12230,
Parish Office: 00974 4416-5550 / 4416-5400 / 4416-5700
Parish Priest: Fr.P.M.Peter , OFM CAP
Fax: 00974 4416-5551