Dubai: A senior church leader in the Middle East has praised a Dubai cultural centre for offering to preserve Christian heritage.
Archbishop Damianos of Sinai, the Abbot of St Catherine's Monastery in Egypt, has thanked the Juma Al Majid Centre for Culture and Heritage for saying it will assist in taking copies of the monastery's well-known collection of manuscripts.
Some of the manuscripts at the Greek Orthodox monastery date back 1,500 years and the Juma Al Majid Centre will provide expertise and equipment so that digital records of the documents can be taken.
The Deira-based Juma Al Majid Centre's initiative is the second example of UAE-Christian ties being strengthened this week.
Last week, the UAE established diplomatic relations with the Vatican, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, a move aimed at "promoting bonds of mutual friendship".
Archbishop Damianos yesterday visited the Juma Al Majid Centre and met with its founder, businessman and philanthropist Juma Al Majid.
The archbishop told Gulf News he was very impressed by the collection of books and manuscripts held at the centre.
He also praised Al Majid for inviting him to Dubai and offering to help preserve the monastery's collection. "He is very kind with his philanthropy. We thank him for this invitation and for the hospitality extended to us. Hopefully we can have more practical co-operation to strengthen this relationship," he said.
St Catherine's Monastery was built in the sixth century at the foot of Mount Moses. As well as holding an important collection of Arab mosaics, Greek and Russian icons and western oil paintings, the monastery has what has been described as one of the most significant collections of illuminated manuscripts in the world.
There are more than 4,000 volumes in the collection, most of them in Greek, with others in, among other languages, Arabic, Syriac, Slavic, Latin and Georgian.
Archbishop Damianos, who is himself Greek, said in the future it might even be possible to organise an exhibition of some of his monastery's manuscripts in the UAE. "Dubai is not so far from Egypt - it is only three hours," he said.
Archbishop Damianos said the invitation he received to come to Dubai was one of the three most important such invitations of his career. One came in 1985, when he was invited to Oman by the Sultan, while the third was in, 2002, when the Emir asked him to come to Qatar.
Raaed Jarjour, office manager at the Juma Al Majid Centre, said: "The mon-astery has a very rich library of manuscripts and if we keep digital copies here they will be safe. Also, there will be easy access to these manuscripts when they are digitised so that scholars and other people who want to see them can do so."
As well as visiting the Juma Al Majid Centre, Archbishop Damianos also went to the American University of Sharjah and the College of Islamic and Arabic Studies in Dubai during his trip to the UAE. He is due to fly back to Cairo today.