Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests and Dear People,
I have the honour to welcome H. E. Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development; H. E. Said Ali Al Hashemi, President Counsellor for Islamic Affairs; His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State / Prime Minister of Pope Francis in the Vatican; H. E. Archbishop Peter Rajic, Apostolic Nuncio and Delegate to the countries of the Arabian Peninsula; H.E. Bishop Camillo Ballin, Apostolic Vicar of Northern Arabia and many other representatives of church and government, the municipality, the architects, contractors and invited guests.
The long awaited day of the official opening of the second Catholic worship centre in Abu Dhabi has come. The capital city has experienced enormous growth since the opening of St. Joseph's Cathedral in the middle of the island in 1983. The compound in Al Mushrif could simply no longer contain the crowds on weekends. The addition of St. Therese's church in October last year has brought some relief and allows us to conduct the prayer services with greater dignity, especially during the hot months when outdoor celebrations are not an option. My gratitude goes first and foremost to the benevolence and graciousness of the President, H.H. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, H.H. the Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan who, in the tradition of their predecessors, together with their ministers, the Urban Planning Council and the Municipality departments have granted us the land and the necessary permits. We are grateful for the stability, security and peace we enjoy in this country.
With the establishment of St. Paul's the Catholic parishes in the UAE number now 8: 3 in Abu Dhabi Emirate, 2 in Dubai Emirate, one each in Sharjah, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah. We hope to have one day a presence in every emirate. The Catholic Church is also contributing to the welfare of the country through its schools, known for academic quality and emphasis on integral human development, while keeping the fees low to cater for the many families of the medium and low income group.
I am confident that this new church will become a prayer and meeting point for the many Catholics in the southern part of the city, to enable them to give their best for the country and its future development. I also hope that we soon get a chance to realise a similar project in the eastern suburbs of the city along the road to Dubai. This country has been blessed with great wealth and fast economic development. Wealth is only a blessing when it is administered with a high sense of responsibility by well qualified and dedicated leaders. The Catholic Church is not simply a praying community but forms its followers in respect for life, care for the environment, honesty and dedication, under the wise guidance of Pope Francis, our spiritual head. Working together in mutual respect we can all contribute to the prosperity and peace of the country.
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