Dedication of the Cathedral to Our Lady of Arabia

Queen of Arabia! Queen of Peace!

From the earliest ages of the Church, whether in times of triumph or in times of crisis, Catholics have always offered prayers of petition and hymns of praise and veneration to the Queen of Heaven. And never has that hope wavered which they placed in the Mother of the Divine King, Jesus Christ for we have been taught that the Virgin Mother of God reigns with a mother’s solicitude over the entire world, just as she is crowned in heavenly blessedness with the glory of a Queen.

Our Lady of Arabia Church, Ahmadi, Kuwait. On the left: The church in 1955; On the right: The present-day church.

Hence, it is not surprising that even in this part of the world, the Arabian Peninsula, that we extol Mary’s queenly dignity. The title ‘Our Lady of Arabia’ (or ‘Queen of Arabia’) even though it seemed quite “new”, yet, the Right Rev. Apostolic Administrator of Arabia had approved it in 1948. It was meant to fulfill the prophecy of the Blessed Virgin contained in the Magnificat, “Behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed!” (Luke 1:48). A Marian title is thus a jewel in Mary’s crown, making her more visible and her blessedness, more radiant! Yet, her glory is not for herself as she always points the way to her Son… “Because the Virgin Mary was raised to such a lofty dignity as to be the mother of the King of kings, it is deservedly and by every right that the Church has honored her with the title of ‘Queen’.” (St. Alphonsus Ligouri) But, she is called ‘Queen’, not only because of her Divine Motherhood, but also because God has willed her to have an exceptional role in the work of our eternal salvation.

Few are aware that devotion to Our Lady of Arabia began in 1948, on 8th December – the day on which the little Chapel in Ahmadi, Kuwait, was dedicated in her honour. Her statue in the same shrine at Ahmadi was blessed in 1949 at the Vatican by Pope Pius XII (photo on the right) who later proclaimed the Queenship of Mary in 1954. In 1949 the Church of Our Lady of Arabia in Ahmadi was aggregated to the Patriarchal Liberian Basilica (Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major) in Rome and has been granted the same indulgences as for visiting this greatest Marian Shrine in the world. H.H. Pope Pius XII, by a pontifical decree Regnum Mariae, dated 25th January, 1957, declared Our Lady of Arabia the Principal Patron of the territory and the Vicariate Apostolic of Kuwait.

In early 2007, His Lordship Bishop Camillo Ballin, MCCJ, the then Vicar Apostolic of Kuwait, petitioned the Holy See to have a feast day established in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Arabia. His prayer and wish were fulfilled when on 5th January 2011, the Holy See officially proclaimed Our Lady of Arabia Patroness of both the Vicariates in the Arabian Peninsula: The Vicariate Apostolic of Kuwait and the Vicariate Apostolic of Arabia. The Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, HIS EMINENCE CARDINAL ANTONIO CAÑIZARES LLOVERA arrived in Kuwait to personally inaugurate the special occasion. A Solemnity in her honour is now celebrated on Saturday preceding the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time with the permission to celebrate it also on Sunday.

14 JAN 2011: Inauguration of the Solemnity of Our Lady of Arabia, Ahmadi, Kuwait.

Then, in a rare turn of events in May 2011, the Holy See re-organized the Vicariate of Kuwait to include in addition to Kuwait, the territories of Qatar, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia and renamed it “The Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia”. In August 2012, H.L. Bishop Camillo moved the Episcopal seat from Kuwait to Bahrain. The decision to transfer the Vicariate’s headquarters was mainly due to Bahrain’s geographical location in the Vicariate and for other logistical reasons. The Kingdom of Bahrain is one of the few GCC countries to have a local Christian population, notably Roman Catholic, since 1930. However, the current majority of 150,000 faithful mostly comprise migrant workers from Asia, primarily from India and the Philippines. The number of faithful is on the upsurge, making space for worship a mighty challenge.

In a magnanimous gesture of goodwill to the Catholic community, the King of Bahrain, His Majesty King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa granted 9,000 square metres of land in Awali, to build a new church. This decision was officially conveyed to His Lordship Bishop Camillo on February 11, 2013 (Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes). The news was received with great joy and excitement by all the faithful in our Vicariate. H.L. Bishop Camillo’s immediate reaction on hearing the good news was to thank our Blessed Mother for her miraculous intercession and decided that the new Cathedral would be dedicated to Our Lady of Arabia.

This is a time of manifold graces and blessings for all, as the loving patronage of Our Lady of Arabia extends to all the faithful in the Arabian peninsula, and indeed the whole world, that, we may renew the praises of Our heavenly Mother, and enkindle a more fervent devotion towards her, to the spiritual benefit of all mankind. Many will surely be enriched by indulgences and privileges by a visit or a pilgrimage to her new shrine. May Our Lady of Arabia hear our prayers, and by her peace make happy a world shaken by discord, and after our earthly exile … show unto us all Jesus, Who will be our eternal peace and joy.

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