Reports of first church in Saudi Arabia are false, says Coptic Orthodox Church

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The Coptic Orthodox Church has denied reports of a meeting between Pope Tawadros II and Saudi Arabian officials to open the first church in the country

The Coptic Orthodox Church has issued a statement refuting reports that the Coptic Pope has met Saudi Arabian officials over the creation of the first church in the country.

There are an estimated 1.5 million Christians in the strictly Muslim country but they are not allowed to worship publicly.

The MidEast Christian News agency reported that a meeting had taken place between Pope Tawadros II and Saudi Ambassador Ahmed Kattan about the possibility of setting up a church.

According to the news agency, Pope Tawadros II thanked the King of Saudi Arabia and the Riyadh Government for their approval of the building of the church, which would be Coptic Orthodox.

It attributed the story to a "reliable source".

However the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK has released a statement saying that the story is a case of "misreporting".

It confirmed that a meeting did take place between the two leaders but that it related to a pastoral visit to the country by a bishop in the Church.

"This was however a strictly cordial visit by His Holiness Pope Tawadros to the Saudi ambassador to express his thanks for the assistance provided in facilitating the pastoral visit of a Coptic Orthodox bishop to Coptic Christians in Saudi Arabia," the statement said.

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