The Saudi Arabian government seems to be engaged in a theocratic and political game of,”Cat & Mouse!” or rather, “Pope & King!” While the attempt to establish better relations between the Holy See and the Saudi government was developing nicely until last week. The obstacle towards further development for the building of Catholic Churches in the Islamic country is the requirement that Benedict XVI publically acknowledge the historical and religious person of Mohammed before any progress is made. Any type of stipulation like this is clearly not a means of developing a new and open line of communications between the Islamic monarchy and Catholicism.

Perhaps this type of stipulation is evident of the great caution that continues to exist between these two legs of the three-legged monotheistic stool. However, without an openness of mutual acceptance and theological equality any substantial progress towards Islamic-Christian co-existence is quickly evaporating. The monarch ruled Islamic country of Saudi Arabia could not manipulate the presence of the Catholic Church in its kingdom based upon a feigned allegiance or proclamation on the part of the Church. The entire reason for the development of a rationally inspired and harmonious dialogue between Muslims and Catholics is the point of the entire exercise. The preexisting requirement that places the acknowledgement of Mohammed undermines the entire concept of religious tolerance between both Christianity and Islam.

The Catholic Church has existed in a clandestine manner in the Saudi Arabian country ever since the spread of Islamic domination during the Crusades. It seems likely that the status of a persecuted and hidden Catholic Church still is the goal of the Islamic ruler. A critical component of understanding that is lacking in the psychological composition of the Saudi Arabian government is the conceptualization of public religious freedom and religious autonomy to worship as each faith determines. Perhaps the theocratic based Islamic monarch is concerned with the potential of Catholic- Christian converts in this homogeneous world of Islamic ritual. If indeed, the fear of Catholic evangelization is the underlying precept on the prohibition of Catholic and all other non-Islamic religious sites of worship the larger concern is the true fear of developing a new perspective on human rights and dignities by the Saudi government.

Saudi government does not offer an equal opportunity towards Catholicism, because it clearly discriminates in opposition to the establishment of Western democracy with religious freedom of expression among its populace. This type of parochial isolationism in regards to the establishment of a free climate of religious expression not only illustrates the Saudi aversion to religious freedom, it loudly proclaims the country’s aversion to democratic ideals. Catholics are accustomed to persecution and discrimination throughout history. Inevitably, our Catholic collective consciousness of prayer, human equality will dominate the Saudi culture. In the meanwhile, Benedict XVI cannot and should not compromise Catholic principles with an acceptance of theological blackmail by the Saudi King.

If truly, the Saudi government is committed to a development of religious dialogue and co-existence with minority non-Islamic faiths …no conditions should deter this prayerful and historic development of global implications. The Islamic world needs to totally comprehend the importance of joint participation in the world of religious tolerance.

Unfortunately, the Saudi King is offering Benedict XVI a requirement that contradicts Catholic sensitivities and principles contrary to the freedom proclaimed by the Gospels and subservience required by extreme interpretations of Islamic law.

The Catholic Church will endure with or without Saudi approbation, because it is Divinely inspired and not ruled by an inflexible theocratic form of monarchial government. As a Church, we pray for the continued evolution of our Catholic faith among the peoples of Islam and the Middle East.

Hugh McNichol is a freelance Catholic author that writes on Catholic topics and issues. He writes a daily column, Nothing Left Unsaid! at http://catholicnewsagency.com and publishes at http://verbumcarofactumest.blogspot.com

Comments are always welcome at hugh.mcnichol@trinettc.com

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