The Holy See and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced the establishment of diplomatic relations today. The creation of a relationship at the ambassadorial level is a boost to the Christian population of the UAE, which numbers around one million people.
The new diplomatic arrangement was arranged because of a desire to promote “bonds of mutual friendship and of strengthening international cooperation,” according to a Vatican communiqué.
A note attached to the communiqué recalls that the United Arab Emirates is located along the central-eastern coast of the Arab peninsula, and has Abu Dhabi as its capital city. It has a surface area of 83,600 square kilometers and a population of more than four million including a large percentage (more than 70 percent) of foreign workers, mostly from other Middle Eastern countries, Pakistan, India, Philippines and Bangladesh. The official language is Arabic.
The majority of UAE citizens are Muslim, which is the official religion of State. "The constitution," of the UAE, "affirms the principle of religious freedom and that Christians are able to perform their public religious activities in churches and parish centers."
Out of the more than four million citizens, "there are more than a million Christians, mostly Catholics, of more than a hundred nationalities who contribute to the social wellbeing of the nation.” The communiqué notes that, “Various religious congregations offer educational services in seven schools,” and that there “are seven churches in the country where Mass is celebrated in various languages and rites.”
Fundamental to the establishment of the relationship between the two states, is the expectation that the authorities (of the UAE), “maintain cordial relations with the Catholic Church and will approve the building of new centers of worship.”