Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, visited the United Arab Emirates this week to consecrate a new church dedicated to the St. Anthony of Padua. The consecration of the new Church is seen as crucial given that it is only the eighth Catholic Church in the Emirates.
Cardinal Filoni began his pastoral visit by celebrating mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Abu Dhabi. Also concelebrating were Archbishop Petar Rajic, Apostolic Nuncio of Arabian Peninsula, Archbishop Giuseppe De Anderia, Former Apostolic Nuncio of Arabian Peninsula, and Bishop Paul Hinder, Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia. Monsignor Paul Syrejac, the Secretary of Nuncio, Fr. Aldo Ferardi from Riyadh, Fr. Tomasito from Dubai, priests from Bishop’s House, Abu Dhabi and all the priests of Abu Dhabi Parish, were also present at the Mass.
In his homily, Cardinal Filoni said he was pleasantly surprised to see the parishioners of St. Joseph’s Cathedral in such large number to welcome him. He said: “Although we did not know each other until yesterday, today we have become friends by our meeting and feeling each others’ presence through our eyes.”
Fides News Agency reported that Cardinal Filoni told the faithful that they represented “the diversity of the people mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles on the day of Pentecost.” The cardinal also sent greetings and blessings on behalf of Pope Francis, saying that the Holy Father had assured him that he “is close to all of you with special affection and esteem.”
The Cardinal recalled in particular the situation of immigrants: “I know that you belong to so many Countries, some of whom I know well and where I spent a few years of my life as a priest and Bishop, learning to appreciate your culture,” Cardinal Filoni said.
“Today you live here, in a land that allows you to work and earn the bread for you and your families. This is an important aspect, because in life we are all a bit immigrants. In addition, you live and work in a land dear to Islam, a religion with which we Christians share the principle of the only God and the value of prayer. Here you learn to practice interreligious coexistence based on mutual respect and collaboration.”
The Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples encouraged those present to continue to remain firm in faith and renewing the commitment of the community.
“Every day you have the choice to renew faith, giving priority to God, and overcoming temptations from different cultures. The tests which you are subjected to are very often numerous,” the Cardinal said. “The temptation to set aside faith is always present and conversion becomes a response to God which must be confirmed many times.”