Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church, Ruwi, Muscat
This Church is a witness to the faith and dedication of expatriate workers who flocked to this country since the early 1900s.
Fr. Bartholomew Kestell OFM Cap. first resident priest in Oman, begin construction of the first Church, which as later completed by Fr. Barnabas Maddii OFM Cap.
This Church as consecrated by His Eminence Simon Cardinal Lourduswamy on 4th November 1977.
A rapid increase in the expatriates made it necessary for bigger Church to be constructed some years later with the generous help of the faithful.
This present Church of S.S.Peter & Paul was solemnly blessed by His Eminence Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran on 10th March 1995
The Catholic Church in Oman has an impressive story, not least because in a span of a mere three decades, the Catholic community was able to build four beautiful churches in the Sultanate These churches stand witness to the generosity and magnanimity of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, the benevolent leader of Oman.
Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Ruwi was consecrated on 4th November 1977. Although it was not the first church in Oman, its development was an important milestone. We are all indebted to His Majesty the Sultan for the generous gift of a plot of land upon which this splendid edifice has been built.
The history of the Catholic community in Muscat can be traced back to the time when a Western trading community landed here towards the late 16th century. Pietro Della Vale, an Italian historian who visited Muscat in 1625 records the existence of a small chapel for the gathering of the faithful. The exact location of this gathering is not known. However, it is believed that a group of people used to join at this small place of worship that existed on the top of Fort Mirani, near Old Muscat, facing the seafront. This place is also believed to have an arch that had a single Latin inscription, “Ave Maria Santa Plena Dominus Tecum” that means, “Hail Mary Full of Grace, The Lord is with You.” There was also a Water Stoop by the side. No records of church history are available between the 16th century and 20th century.
Later, in the 1940s and the 50s, a multinational Catholic population of Muscat used to join in prayer. This group of 20 consisted of Indian and Pakistani employees of Cable and Wireless, Gray Mackenzie, the British Consulate and the British Bank. The Capuchin priests who made occasional visits on their voyage from Bombay to Aden visited Muscat at the time. These visits did not exceed five per year.
Pioneer Parish Priests of Oman
The pioneer among the many who served in Oman was Fr. Eugene Mattioli OFM Cap., who used to visit Oman regularly from Bahrain since 1962. By the early 1970s, Oman began to develop rapidly with Ruwi becoming an important hub of activity. The parishioners of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Muscat are always indebted to the visionaries of the time – to His Holiness Pope John Paul VI – for his spiritual guidance, and to Rt. Rev. Dr. Bernard Giovanni Gremoli OFM Cap., Bishop of Arabia, for his untiring efforts for the welfare of the parishioners.
With the 1970s witnessing a sharp increase in the number of expatriate Catholics in Oman, the need arose for a permanent resident priest. After having been served by visiting missionaries for more than thirty years, the faithful in Muscat had the joy of welcoming their first resident priest. Fr. Bartholomew Kestell, better known as Fr. Barth, (an American Capuchin) volunteered and became the first resident priest in Oman.
In his welcome speech at the residence of the Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) Managing Director, Mr. Rudi Jacklil, Fr. Barth said his top priority was to build a new parish church and school in Oman. But times were rough for Fr. Barth. He had to live and say Mass in a two-room house, without electricity and water supply. Old-timers still recollect how Mass was celebrated at Bait Al Falaj under a makeshift canopy beside the priest’s residence. The congregation had to sit on a dozen large wooden logs fixed to the ground.
Fr. Barth spent most of his time travelling long distance into the desert areas of Sohar, Nizwa, Fahud, Rostaq and Salalah to celebrate Mass for the Catholic communities spread over these places. In 1974, Fr. Barth’s dream came close to fruition when His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said graciously donated a plot for our parish. As Fr. Barth’s presence was required elsewhere in the diocese, the task of building the church was left to Fr. Barnabas Maddi who succeeded Fr. Barth. Fr. Barth is always remembered as the pioneer Parish Priest of Muscat who initiated the building of a church.
Architecture of the Church
The original design of Sts. Peter and Paul Church was made by Architect Tony Lodge in cooperation with Fr. Barth. The church was an octagonal building with a large central dome. The style was Byzantine, with Arabic style smoked glass all around. The architecture was a mix of the ancient and modern. The lights and big chandelier dominated the centre of the church. It was specially made for the church by Tagetti in Florence.
‘Pillars’ and ‘Milestones’ of the Church
Fr. Barth was succeeded by Fr. Barnabas Maddi came to Oman on 16th November 1976, after spending 42 years of missionary service in India and Gulf countries such as Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Aden and Sharjah.
Fr. Antonio Fortuna, an Italian Capuchin, joined Fr. Barnabas as the first Assistant Parish Priest in the same year, 1976. Both priests worked very hard and like their predecessor (Fr. Barth), they travelled around the country regularly to reach the numerous Catholic parishioners living in the interior of the country. They also had the difficult task of raising funds for the construction of the Church. Fr. Barnabas brought into action all his talents as an organiser, artist and architect, and completed the building of the Church in 1977. It was solemnly blessed by His Eminence Cardinal Simon Lourdusamy on 4th November 1977.
In 1980 Fr. Antonio was transferred to Sharjah. He was a source of inspiration to the people, and is remembered by many as the ‘gentle one.’
Fr. Adrian D’Souza served as Assistant Parish Priest from 11 April 1981 to May 1989. With the transfer of Fr. Barnabas to the newly-built Holy Spirit Church at Ghala, Fr. Eduardo Saracini took over in 1987 as the Parish Priest. In 1989, he was succeeded by Fr. Augustine Antao, who was posted from Salalah.
A substantial increase in the size of the parish community during the 1980s and 1990s prompted the need for a larger church. Religious activities increased as well. Ruwi Church became the focal point for prayer groups, seminars, retreats and various youth events. The parish community soon outgrew the church building, necessitating a bigger structure to accommodate the mushrooming number of faithful. The situation was such that the first church was unable to accommodate even half the faithful.
It was initially proposed to enlarge the existing church. However, on the advice of the Muscat Municipality which found rust on the dome, it was decided to pull down the old edifice, and build a more spacious new church which would preserve and improve on the architectural beauty of the old one. With the concerted efforts of Fr. Augustine and Fr. Jess Gueco, the assistant parish priest and with the full backing of His Lordship Rt. Rev. Dr. Bernard Gremoli, a modern elegant church – “something new and beautiful for God” – was envisioned. The new church was blessed and inaugurated on 10th March 1995 by His Excellency Archbishop Jean Louis Tauran, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States.
The Church in Ruwi, which can accommodate a congregation of around 2000 parishioners, is a modern architectural masterpiece integrating functionality with religious sanctity. It has an air of tranquillity that makes one want to linger and pray. The structural design is a marvel in itself. The most outstanding feature of the Church is the dome which gives one a feeling of direct communication with God in heaven. The white-marbled altar wears a pristine look and the stained glass, which reflects in beautiful colours, of the life-size figures of Jesus, Mary and Joseph lend an aura of piety to the Church. With the completion of the new church, the surroundings were renovated as well. A new grotto of Our Lady was built, the parking lot was paved and parking slots were clearly marked. Courts for games were also installed. A well-conceived structure tells its own story. As an artist says, ‘a church architecture, for that matter any architecture, is not piling up stone upon stone to make an edifice – that is masonry – but it means to express something in stone, and especially something sacred. Religion is carried out into stone, and people are certainly helped to think of God, to admire the divine, to worship divinity, to express one’s dependency on God, and to adore and love Him.
After a decade of selfless service to the Ruwi Church, Fr. Augustine Antao was transferred back to Salalah Church in 1999. Fr. Venus Flobert served for a short period from 1995-96 and was transferred back to Djibouti. In 1997 Fr. Jess Gueco, the Assistant Parish Priest, was transferred to Holy Spirit Church, Ghala, as Parish Priest and was replaced by Fr. Lester Mendonsa, a young Diocesan priest and biblical scholar in his own right. Fr. Lester, whose five-year mission here was marked by a strong resurgence in parish activities, was later reassigned to Qatar, to help lead the development of a new mission in Doha.
In 1999 Fr. Varghese Chempoly was posted to Ruwi as Parish Priest while Fr. Antao was transferred back to Salalah after 10 years of dedicated service to this parish. Fr. Antonio Fortuna also returned to Ruwi at the same time. Fr. Maria Anthony and Fr. Joseph Thyagaraj served this parish for short spells as assistant parish priests and were transferred to the Holy Spirit Church, Ghala. In 2000 Fr. Chacko Mannicherril served the parish as Assistant Parish Priest and was transferred to the Mission Station in Doha in 2001. Fr. Santhosh Karingada then took over as Assistant Parish Priest.
Fr. Albert D’Silva replaced Fr. Lester as Assistant Parish Priest in 2002 and in 2003, Fr. Chacko Mannicherril, after his Doha service, also joined the church as Assistant Parish Priest. Later, in February 2004, Fr. Chacko was transferred to Holy Spirit Church, Ghala as the Parish Priest. In May 2004 a youthful Fr. George Vadukkut joined the Church family as Assistant Parish Priest.
November 2005 was a time of great rejoicing in the parish following the appointment of Fr. Varghese Chempoly as Vice Provincial at Sts. Peter & Paul Capuchin General Vice Province, Arabia. Fr. Chacko Mannicherril, who was Parish Priest in Ghala, assumed charge as Parish Priest of Ruwi in February 2006. A year later in February 2006, Fr. Chacko returned to the Capuchin Province in Kottayam, Kerala to continue his work in the service of the community. Filling the void in Ruwi was Fr. Raul L. Ramos, who was Assistant Parish Priest in Ghala at the time.
Three Decades of Spiritual Mission
“1 November 2007 was a momentous day in the history of the Church, marking the Grand Finale of the 30th Anniversary celebrations of Sts. Peter & Paul Church, Ruwi. This finale was preceded by two months of spiritual, cultural, musical and sports activities. It included Bible Presentations (by Legion of Mary, Malayalam, MIPC and Pilipino Prayer Groups), while the various communities took part in Bible Quiz and Marian Nite events. Adding festivity to the celebrations was a range of community and cultural activities, such as Fancy Dress, Folk Dance, Food Fiesta, and Fun Sports, all of which attracted large numbers of parishioners.
On 1 November 2007 the Grand Finale began with a Solemn High Mass presided over by His Excellency Rev. Dr. Paul Hinder, Bishop of Arabia, and concelebrated by Rev. Frs. Varghese, Raul, Albert, George, Edward, John, Jossy, Dinesh and Sebastian. This was followed by a delightful cultural programme that showcasing the anniversary theme of ‘Love, Peace and Unity’.
With the spiritual guidance of the Parish Priest, Fr. Raul Ramos, and his assistants, Fr. Albert D’Silva and Fr. George Vadukkut, a spirit of renewal is energising the various church ministries and religious groups. Spiritual retreats, seminars, youth camps and sports and games are being regularly organised as part of an ongoing effort to enable the growth of an inclusive and close-knit parish family. Indeed, every community is encouraged to come forward and participate actively in parish life.
§ Friday Catechism
§ Legion of Mary
§ Poor of St. Anthony (POSA)
§ Techno – Service
§ Thursday Catechism
§ Anglo-Indian Community
§ East-India Community
§ Goan Community
§ Malayalam Community
§ Mangalorean Community
§ Sri Lankan
Weekday Mornings Mass: Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Sat- 06.15 a.m.
Weekday Evening Mass: Mon, Tue, Wed, Sat- 07.15 p.m.
Thursday: 07.00 p.m.,08.15 p.m. (Children’s Mass)
Friday: 07.30 a.m. & 09.00 a.m.,10.30 a.m. (Children’s Mass),
05.30 p.m.& 07.15 p.m.
Sunday: 06.00 a.m.,05.30 p.m. & 07.15 p.m.
Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic Church
P.O.Box: 613, PC: 112, Ruwi, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman
Tel.No.: +968 24701893/24784977, Fax No.: +968 24788840
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org , email@example.com