The Coptic Orthodox Church has issued a statement denying reports it has struck an agreement with Saudi Arabian officials to build the first church in the kingdom.
The rumours and reports surfaced after His Holiness Pope Tawadros II met with the Saudi Ambassador to Egypt, Ahmed Kattan, in Cairo at the weekend, with the MidEast Christian News agency claiming the possibility of setting up a church had been addressed at the meeting.
However, Fr Paul Halim, the official spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church, told the US Copts Association the reports were “untrue”.
The Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK also issued a statement clarifying the purpose of Friday's meeting: "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."
Despite over 1 million Christians living in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom is still one of the few countries in the world which does not have a Christian church.
Last year, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia caused controversy when he said it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region,” echoing moves in Kuwait to ban their construction.
Saudi Arabia’s top cleric made the comment in view of an age-old rule that only Islam can be practiced in the region.
The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia is the highest official of religious law in the Sunni Muslim kingdom. He is also the head of the Supreme Council of Ulema (Islamic scholars) and of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing of Fatwas.
A Kuwaiti parliamentarian in February 2013 said he wanted to ban the construction of churches and non-Islamic places of worship in the Gulf state.
MP Osama Al Munawer announced on Twitter he planned to submit a draft law calling for the removal of all churches in the country. He later clarified that existing churches should remain but the construction of new non-Islamic places of worship should be banned.