Pope Pushing for Church in Saudi Arabia

Islam's holy ground could be ready to open up
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2008 10:37 AM CDT
Pope Benedict XVI meets with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah at the Vatican, Nov. 6, 2007.    (AP Photo/Chris Helgren, pool)
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(Newser) – Pope Benedict XVI is lobbying Saudi Arabia to let a Catholic church on its soil, Time reports. The Vatican confirms that it's discussing forging diplomatic relations with the Saudis, but a house of worship would be a major coup in a country where all religions besides Sunni Islam are banned.

A small, unadorned chapel recently went up in neighboring Qatar. But Saudi Arabia, home to the Islamic holy land as well as 800,000 Christians (many of them migrant workers), is far more draconian. Benedict has been a stalwart advocate of religious freedom in the Middle East, but famously riled up Muslims in 2006 in a speech about Islam and violence.