November 28, 2012 by mattfradd
On the last day of the conference I had the honor of sitting down with three men from Saudi Arabia.
Because the public practice of Christianity is illegal in Saudi Arabia, the three men refused to have our conversation recorded for fear of persecution.
The man on the far left (in the photograph) is a Catholic priest from the Philippines. He applied for a Saudi Arabian visa as a car mechanic. When I asked him if we was also a mechanic he gave a cheeky laugh, saying, “oh no, no.” He ministers as a priest in one of the three (I believe it’s three) underground dioceses of Saudi.
The man on my immediate left is “the driver.” Each night he picks up the faithful, driving them to the priest’s house where they celebrate Mass in secret.
The man on my right is the youth minister. This man secretly organized the pilgrimage from Saudi to Abu Dhabi where the conference was held. It is his responsibility to help catechize the youth.
Two (of the many) questions I asked were:
Me: How is Mass Celebrated?
Priest: “Each night when we celebrate Mass at a home. There are no physical Church structures in Saudi Arabia, the Church is completely ‘underground.’ When we celebrate Holy Mass there are several men outside on watch with mobile phones. If they see the police coming they alert us. We immediately transform the Mass into a birthday party.”
Me: Have you ever had to do this?
Priest: “Not me personally. Recently, in another underground parish, a priest was celebrating Mass for the faithful in a barn. The men on watch did not do their job properly and before they knew it, the police streamed into the barn, asking questions. They tried to pretend it was a birthday party but could not get their story straight on whose birthday it was. The police dismissed the congregation but arrested the priest and twelve others. They were sent to prison.”
I am currently in dialog with the youth minister as to how we can help these men better catechize the faithful. If I were to send books, CD’s and DVD’s on the Christian faith directly they would be confiscated and destroyed by customs and these men may get in trouble, lose their jobs, or worse.
I had lunch with the Bishop who overseas the underground church in Saudi. He does not reside there personally but is willing to smuggle these resources into the country if we send them to him.
Please pray for this endeavor and pray for the teens and young adults living our their faith in a hostile environment!