VATICAN CITY, NOV. 18, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican and the Arab state of Qatar separately announced the establishment of official diplomatic relations.
The Vatican Press Office today said, “Wishing to develop relations of mutual friendship and to promote international cooperation,” the Vatican and Qatar “have decided by joint agreement to establish diplomatic relations between one another.”
The Vatican will have an apostolic nunciature in Doha, Qatar’s capital, while the emirate will open an embassy to the Vatican in Rome.
Qatar is a neighbor of Saudi Arabia. Its population of about 793,000 is made up mostly of Arab Bedouins. There are also immigrant workers from nearby Arab states and Iran, as well as Pakistan, India and the Philippines.
About one-fourth of the population is under 15. Rich oil and natural gas reserves fuel the country’s high economic development.
Qatar is a member of the United Nations and of the Arab League. Though most of its population is Muslim, the country has 45,000 Catholic immigrants, especially from the Philippines and India.
Qatar forms part of the apostolic vicariate of Arabia, entrusted to Bishop Giovanni Bernardo Gremoli, who resides in Abu Dhabi.
Pastoral attention in the one and only Qatar parish is entrusted to four priests (two diocesan and two Capuchins, one of whom is a Filipino and the other of the Syro-Malabar rite). The Catholic catechetical and prayer groups, in various languages, are considered vibrant.
Recently, the Catholic Church received land from the local authorities to build a center and place of worship. The Catholic community now meets in the gymnasium of the American School in Doha for the weekly liturgy. Mass is celebrated in several rites and languages.