Vatican Denies Signing Accord with Saudi Arabia to Build Churches

AP Photo/Hussein Malla
AP/Hussein Malla

The Vatican has denied reports that it entered into an agreement with the government of Saudi Arabia to build Christian churches in the country.

On Friday, Breitbart News commented on a recent report by the Egypt Independent newspaper that for the first time in history, Saudi Arabia had signed a joint agreement with the Vatican to build churches for Christians living in the officially Muslim nation. (The online page containing that report is no longer available.)

The Egypt Independent had declared that the accord had been signed by the Secretary-General of the Muslim World League Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdel Karim Al-Issa and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in the Vatican, while the Financial Express added that Saudi Arabia’s newfound openness to socio-cultural cooperation with the non-Muslim world would have stemmed from a desire to reduce dependency on oil resources, its primary economic driver.

On Saturday, however, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke told Breitbart News that no such agreement has been reached.

According to the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Tauran visited Riyadh on April 16-20, where he was received at the royal palace by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who acts as the country’s prime minister as well as the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and his son, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Tauran and his delegation also visited the Center for the Fight against Extremist Thought and met with the current grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul-Aziz ibn Abdullah Al ash-Sheikh.

In his address to Saudi officials, Tauran underscored that “hundreds of thousands of Christians” reside in the Saudi Kingdom and insisted that Pope Francis follow their situation “with close attention.” The cardinal also reiterated the Vatican position on the equal treatment of all citizens regardless of their religion, including those who do not profess any religion, and called for establishing a common basis for the construction of centers of worship.

Nonetheless, these talks did not lead to an agreement providing for the building of churches to care for the needs of Christians in Saudi Arabia, according to the Vatican’s spokesman.

Saudi Arabia, officially a Muslim nation, remains the only country in the region without a single Christian church.

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