In Saudia Arabia, Religious freedom is virtually non-existent. The Government does not provide legal recognition or protection for freedom of religion, and it is severely restricted in practice. In fact, all citizens are considered by the state to be Muslim by default, with this policy extending so as far as to unborn children still in the womb.

Despite the intense religious restrictions, the universality of the Catholic Faith is truly shown by over a million followers of the one true Church living in the country.

In Saudi Arabia, conversion from Islam to any other religion is considered apostasy by the state, which carries with it the possibility of punishment by death. The government also has a department, called the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, intended to enforce these laws and promote religious uniformity in the country. Still, well over a million faithful Catholics live in Saudi Arabia and are forced to practice the Faith in private for fear of punishment.

The largest population of Catholics are immigrants from the Philippines, who come to the country as expatriates for work. Although Saudi Arabia comes under the jurisdiction of the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia, it has no dioceses or churches. Thus, community members hold private Masses in their homes.

One member of the underground community is a Philipino man, whose name we will not publish for his safety, working in the country since 1992. He is a member of an international Catholic lay ecclesial movement, which has about 3,000 hidden members in Saudi Arabia. He says that community members hold Masses in private residences, constantly moving from house to house to avoid detection. Masses are also occasionally held in foreign embassies.

“There are houses identified and we determine who goes to what house,” [Name redacted] said, adding that each Mass is usually attended by about 80 people. There is freedom but you should not create noise unlike some of our brothers. Their praise and worship events usually create noise.”

Almost a decade ago in 2008, the Vatican was in talks with the government of Saudi Arabia to establish a Catholic Church in the country, but the state government decided against it. Today, the future is unclear whether or not the country will allow for churches to be built. What is certain, is that the Catholic Faith is as alive and well as ever.

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  1. That’s true. Once I was there for almost 14 years and few times I was attended masses, tho’ the difficulties were always present but the moment the mass is over you can not understand the joy that God allowed us to received His Divinity thru the Eucharist. May our Lord Jesus Christ wiĺl bless the hearts of unbelievers. Amen.

    • As much as i love this article please be cinsiderate of tge people living in the middle east esp in saudi arabia. As you’ve said you wont mention their names to protect them this article will surely heighten the raids of the religious affairs. This would inspire some people but this would also put catholic paritioners on that country in danger. If you want to help send aid into building the cathedral in bahrain thanks.

  2. Great article about a little known fact. Too bad our brothers and sisters can’t have the same freedoms as we have here. God bless them for continuing to live their faith, even if in secret.

  3. God bless every one who dare attend Holy Mass
    The persecution of the Romans were far greater, yet it fell , the fall was so great nothing has been left of it.
    Imagine The Saudis in comparison to the Romas- just nothing, and Our Hod is in work to build church and believers there. Keep praying and hope in the one who was crucified

  4. Was there from the late seventies to the early eighties and we attended mass in a secret place. But am so thankful, with Divine Intervention, we were able to have mass every weekend.

  5. very true, i just hope this article will stays in secret to protect us “the faithfuls” living here in ksa.

  6. I was told that because of the large Filipino population the government allowed a Catholic Church to be built called ” Our Lady of Arabia” but that from the outside there can be no marking to indicate that it is a church.

  7. Yes it’s very true. My Aunt was there in the early 90s her experience from the place was so bitter and painfull. When she was there as a part of her work. At the airport immgiration, she had to painfully watch the officials abused and discared her Bible and rosary in front of her.

  8. It is very nice to hear about the Catholic community that exists in Saudi Arabia, but I think information can be more discreet for their protection, e.g. there is no need to specify Filipino, etc…

    • Exactly in 2016 a group of faithfuls with the priest was raided put in jail and accused of terrorism luckily they were just deported and not beheaded.

  9. Im proud that of most Catholics in SaudI Arabia are Filipinos like me. I believe that God designed us most Filipino to be Overseas Worker and propagate our Catholic Faith. Filipino Catholics stayed abroad are more solid, regularly practicing Catholic Faith. May our Lord Bless our country, The Philippines…

  10. Being born and brought up in saudi arabia myself, I would suggest that writing articles like this would really endanger not just the Catholics but other christians living there too..during my time not even a photo of the prayer area was permitted and still not permitted for fear of discovery. My group consisted of catholics from different states of India.


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