Prince Charles attending the service at the Catholic Church of Our Lady of Rosary, Abu Hamour, yesterday: PICTURES: Jayan Orma
Prince Charles rounded off his two-day official visit to Qatar yesterday with whirlwind tours of three of the country’s churches, housed in the sprawling Religious Complex in Abu Hamour.
Accompanied by British ambassador Nicholas Hopton and officials, Prince Charles visited the St Isaac and St George Greek Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and the Anglican Church of the Epiphany.
At the Catholic church, the main worship centre of Qatar’s 200,000-strong expatriate Catholic communities - mainly from the Philippines, India, South America, Africa, Lebanon and Europe, the prince listened to Mass from its gallery, along with vicar Father Arokiam Selvaraj. The church was the first to be opened in Qatar in March 2008.
The parish priest thanked Prince Charles for taking time off his hectic schedule to visit the church. A huge gathering of different expatriate nationalities was present during the dignitary’s visit. Mass is said in about 12 languages, mainly on Thursdays and Fridays, at the Catholic church.
Later, at the Anglican Church complex, catering to the many Protestant communities in Qatar, Prince Charles held a brief closed-door meeting with representatives of different Christian denominations in Qatar and listened to their experiences of living and working in the region. They discussed the effects of conflict on religious co-existence in places like Syria.
Chaplain of the Epiphany Church, Bill Schwartz, said: “It has been a wonderful experience for me to welcome His Royal Highness to see how our religious communities operate in Qatar. My parishioners come from all over the world, which has enriched our community and mutual understanding of each other. Thanks to the generosity of the State of Qatar, we have a place to come together and celebrate our faith. It is a testament to Qatar’s tolerance and commitment to inter-faith harmony.”
Earlier, Prince Charles toured the neighbouring St Issac and St George Greek Orthodox Church, home to a vibrant congregation of the orthodox communities from across the Arab world.
In a statement issued to commemorate the prince’s visit to the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Makarios Mavrogiannakis said: “We are thankful to you (Prince Charles) for visiting the church complex during your busy official engagements in Qatar, where Christians from most parts of the world are found. About 10,000 people from the Middle East, Asia, Syria and Africa are attending the services in different languages held at this church complex.”
In a communique, British ambassador Hopton said: “I am delighted that the Prince of Wales was able to experience firsthand the vibrant, diverse and unique nature of the Christian community in Qatar. This built on his participation earlier in his visit in an interfaith discussion, chaired by the Doha International Centre for Interfaith Dialogue.
“His Royal Highness has a long experience of working with all religious communities in the UK, especially our growing Muslim community. He has a deep commitment to promoting religious tolerance and to the defence of all faiths, in all areas of the world.
“It has been a pleasure for us to welcome him here today to see how the culture of religious tolerance flourishes in Qatar.”
Prince Charles meeting with community members at the Anglican Church of the Epiphany.