Catholics and Omani Officials Inaugurate Country’s Fifth Parish

09/10/2019 Oman (International Christian Concern) – Christian and Muslim dignitaries alike inaugurated St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church this past weekend in the Omani city of Salalah, marking only the fifth parish in the country.

Construction began in February 2018, but Sultan Qaboos bin Said provided the land to the Catholic Church in 1979. While Oman is generally praised for its religious tolerance, especially compared to its Arabian neighbors, church buildings and religious life is still restricted and monitored closely by the government.

In a country that is 86% Muslim and only 6.5% Christian, Omani law is based on the Islamic state religion. The churches capabilities are limited as non-Muslim religious groups must be registered with the government, who then approves and controls building leases. Public proselytizing is forbidden as well. Therefore, with space for up to 1000 people, the church is expected to primarily serve foreigners living and working in Oman.

In spite of these concerns, St. Francis Xavier Church held many of varying faiths on Saturday, with high level clergy and Omani officials graciously extending thanks to both sides. Archbishop Francisco Padilla, the vicar of Southern Arabia, thanked the Sultan for the building permits and praised God for the sign of hope that the Church symbolizes.

In September 2017, Sultan Qaboos reportedly greatly assisted in negotiations for Fr. Tom of India who was held by terrorists in Yemen. In 2019, Oman was ranked 44th on Open Doors, World Watch List, highlighting that despite these victories, the persecution of Christians continues.

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