Will Saudi Arabia finally allow a church on its soil?
For centuries, practicing Christianity has been forbidden in the Saudi kingdom. Leaving Islam is punishable by death. So, are reports true that things are changing?
“At the doorways to the sacristy, sanctuary, chapel, and the main entrance, stone crosses were attached to the wall. These four crosses, in place during the early excavation, disappeared in late 1986 or early 1987. Over the years since the discovery, the desert has erased even the marks left when the crosses were removed.”
The Saudi government has fenced off the site with barbed wire, saying it is protecting the archeological site.
And what about the reports that the Saudis are going to allow a church to be built?
“The Coptic Orthodox Church has denied reports of a meeting between Pope Tawadros II and Saudi Arabian officials to open the first church in the country,” reports the website Christian Today. “The Coptic Orthodox Church has issued a statement refuting reports that the Coptic Pope has met Saudi Arabian officials over the creation of the first church in the country.
“The MidEast Christian News agency reported that a meeting had taken place between Pope Tawadros II and Saudi Ambassador Ahmed Kattan about the possibility of setting up a church.
“However the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK has released a statement saying that the story is a case of “misreporting”.
It confirmed that a meeting did take place between the two leaders but that it related to a pastoral visit to the country by a bishop in the Church.
"This was however a strictly cordial visit by His Holiness Pope Tawadros to the Saudi ambassador to express his thanks for the assistance provided in facilitating the pastoral visit of a Coptic Orthodox bishop to Coptic Christians in Saudi Arabia," the statement said.
Meanwhile, although no churches are allowed in the country, Saudi Arabia does allows Christians to enter the country as foreign workers for temporary work, but does not allow them to practice their faith openly. During the Kuwaiti war, American troops were cautioned not to carry Bibles in public. Chaplains were required to remove the crosses from their lapels.