VATICAN CITY: The Vatican is to move its representation in the Gulf from Kuwait to Bahrain to facilitate the organization of regional meetings of Christians, its regional head announced yesterday. “Bahrain is more central, since it is between Kuwait and Qatar and facing Saudi Arabia,” Bishop Camillo Ballin said in an interview with Radio Vatican. It is also easier to get visas for the Bahrain archipelago than for Kuwait, said Ballin, which “facilitates organizing meetings between priests and Catholics from other countries.” The Gulf seat is known as an apostolic vicariate, a base for the Holy See in countries where there is no diocese.
According to Vatican estimates, around two million Catholics live in the Gulf, the vast majority in strictly Muslim Saudi Arabia. Most are immigrant workers from the Philippines, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Between 100,000 and 140,000 Catholics live in Bahrain. A decision by Bahrain’s government to provide land for the construction of a new church is an important gesture to Catholics in the region, said Ballin. “This is a sign of openness, important for Bahrain, and I hope it will serve as a model for other countries too,” he said. The Holy See has raised concerns that Christians living in countries where Islam is the dominant religion have to hide their faith.— AFP