IN A HISTORIC breakthrough, the Holy See has established full diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates.
The Vatican last week issued a statement declaring that the two countries will exchange ambassadors in an effort to "promote bonds of mutual friendship".
The official religion of the United Arab Emirates is Islam. However, as 80 per cent of the nation's 4.4 million population is made up of non-citizen workers, the Vatican estimates that "there could be more than one million Christians, mostly Catholics, belonging to more than 100 different nationalities" living in UAE.
The oil-rich country, which is in the Persian gulf, allows freedom of religious expression, unlike many Islamic nations.
There are presently a total of seven churches across its seven states and Mass is celebrated in several different rites.
The Vatican stated that it "is waiting to obtain from the country's authorities, which maintain cordial relations with the Catholic Church, authorisation to build new places of worship".
Last year, the American government's International Religious Freedom Report said that land for places of worship should be leased, rent-free, from a local ruler but the building is owned by the Church.