Catholic cardinal meets Saudi king in historic visit to Riyadh

French cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran’s visit marks the first official meeting between Saudi ruler and a Catholic official.

The first month-long Joint Gulf Shield military drill in Saudi Arabia
King Salman has recently held a number of meetings with representatives of Christian traditions [Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Kingdom Council]

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has met French cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran during the first visit to the kingdom by such a senior Catholic authority, according to Saudi state-run media.

It followed a flurry of similar gatherings between senior Saudi figures and representatives of other Christian traditions in recent months.

The kingdom hosts Islam‘s holiest sites but bans the practice of other faiths.

The meeting in Riyadh between the king and Tauran, who heads the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, is the first between the current Saudi ruler and a Catholic official.

Lebanon’s Christian Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai visited Saudi Arabia in November. The Maronite church, which has a presence in Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus and follows an Eastern rite of the Roman Catholic church.

During a meeting with the head of the Anglican church in Britain’s capital, London, last month, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman promised to promote interfaith dialogue as part of his domestic reforms.

The crown prince has loosened some social restrictions recently, scaling back the role of religious police and permitting public concerts.

The government also announced plans to allow women to drive this year.

King Abdullah, Salman’s predecessor and brother, met Pope Benedict in the Vatican in 2007.

Source: Reuters