In an Arab country where the dominant religion is Muslim, it is often difficult to imagine for Christianity to exist in such a place. Just like any other Muslim dominated countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan, Oman’s religious landscape can be characterized by Islamic practices and doctrines. However, Christianity exists in Oman, particularly Catholicism. As of late, about 55,000 Catholics are living in the country, the majority of whom are immigrant workers or expats.
Catholic churches are managed under the system called The Catholic Church of Oman, which is also under the direct leadership of the Vatican Church. The church has established an alliance with other Catholic congregations in Yemen and UAE called the Vicariate Apostolic of Southern Arabia.
Catholic Churches to Visit in the Sultanate of Oman
As of the moment, there are six Catholic churches in Oman, and these are:
1. Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Muscat
Is a church situated in the city of Muscat, which is the largest and capital city of Oman? It is one of the only two Catholic churches that can be found in the town, the other being the Church of Holy Spirit located in Ghala. The land in which this church is built was donated by the Sultan of Oman following policies of religious tolerance. Most of the churchgoers are expat workers who began to flock the country in recent decades. Because of the increased numbers of worshippers in the church, it was closed for expansion with the funds collected from its faithful members and was only re-opened in 1995.
2. St. Francis Xavier Church, Salalah
It is a Catholic church built in the town of Salalah. Its construction began in 1979 and was spearheaded by Father Antonino Fortuna. The church was finished and opened to the public in 1981. Initially, the building was designed to be small in dimension, but because of the growing number of members, it eventually expanded to cater more worshippers. Rites in the church are conducted in either Latin or Roman.
3. St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Sohar
Located about 230 kilometres north of Muscat, the St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Sohar is one of the most well-designed and well-developed Catholic churches outside Muscat. Archbishop Pablo Fuente led its inauguration in 1994, but its first mass was delivered in 1993 by Father Saracini. Then Sultan Qaboos Bin Said donated the land on which the church in response to a petition by Bishop Gremoli in 1989. The city was rapidly growing as an industrial hub, and Father Gremoli found that it was necessary that a place of worship for Catholic expat workers should be built.
4. The Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Ghala
One of the only two Catholic churches in the city of Muscat. The church is more convenient in terms of transportation and proximity to other vital spots. It is located in front of the American International School. The church’s design is more modern as compared to the other churches in the country, perhaps because of the growing number of Westerners in the area.
5. Marthoma Church in Oman
The foundation of the church was preceded by the formation of a prayer group called Mar Thoma Prayer group in the early 1970s. The group was initially composed of 17 Catholic priest members under the supervision of Reverend Father Thomas, who long served as a vicar in a Dubai parish church. Eventually, the group decided to construct a church that will be named after them.
The Catholic population in Oman is roughly around 2% of the country’s overall population; however, the number of Catholic churches has started to increase by the decade and are spread throughout the entire country. With more migrants and expat workers coming into Oman, it is expected that in the coming years, the number of Catholic churches in Oman will also multiply in number.