In a rare sight, a Catholic bishop visiting a Muslim country in the Middle East showed he was not afraid to demonstrate his faith – by openly wearing a large golden cross.
Bishop Buolos Matar, part of Lebanon's Maronite Catholic delegation to visit Saudi Arabia, was seen wearing a large golden cross necklace in the predominantly Muslim nation, Bloomberg reported. This was made even more remarkable by the fact that the clergyman was meeting with Saudi Arabia's most influential ministers.
The Bishop was part of a delegation led by Maronite patriarch Beshara Al Rai. They were in the country on official visit, after being invited. Photos released by LBCI TV show they were greeted by Minister of State Thamer al-Sabhan upon arrival on Monday.
On Tuesday, patriarch Rai and his companions met with Saudi Arabian King Salman while being flanked by other clergymen with crosses. The two leaders discussed religious tolerance and combating extremism, news reports say.
Later in the day, Rai also met with Saad Hariri, who had recently resigned from his post as Prime Minister on reports of an assassination plot.
Saudi Arabia is one of the most dangerous places for Christians. According to Open Doors, an organization focused on serving persecuted Christians in nations around the world, Saudi Arabia ranks as the 14th most dangerous country for Christians, with a very high level of persecution.
"Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world without any church buildings, an indication of the level to which both public and private life are defined by Islam," Open Doors says about the country in its report.
That said, it is worth noting that this is the first time the Muslim country has extended an invitation to a senior Maronite figure. Rai, the second patriarch to visit the country, said the original invitation had been extended in 2013.