Did you know that the biggest handwritten community Bible in the world is here, in Dubai?
In April 2017, Dubai’s St Mary’s Church, one of the largest Roman Catholic parish in the world, celebrated the church’s golden jubilee.
The parish brainstormed for extraordinary ideas to celebrate. While talking to Gulf News, the church’s parish priest, Fr Lennie JA Connully recalled the meeting that took place in November 2016: “Some people came up with the idea, why don’t we write the Bible in all the languages existing in this parish.
“It was a bright but challenging task”, he added. “We invited people, and people speaking 52 languages came forward. The next task was to collect 52 bibles in different languages.”
Mathew Thomas, one of the organisers said: “The church has around 300,000 parish members, who are actively involved with church activities. When we announced, so many registrations came through from various nationalities.”
Volunteering wasn’t enough, the writers who would be selected, needed to have good penmanship.
Finally, on the afternoon of March 31, 2017, nearly 2000 selected parishioners gathered to achieve the feat. Thomas said: “The parishioners got together in some classrooms and halls of the St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Oud Metha.”
Passages from the Bible were allotted based on the strength of each group per language. In around two hours, the writing was over.
But the challenging part was yet to come.
Fr Connully said: “The next task was to arrange the pages - collecting the papers, putting them in the right places and so on. The arrangement took almost a month. Binding it was another challenge - it wasn’t easy to bind pages weighing 22kg, initially no one [printer] was willing to do it.”
The languages used in writing the Bible, are listed on the spine of the book.
He added: “Finally someone came forward and they did a great job. Our intention was to present the Bible to Pope Francis.”
The original Bible was sent to the Pope, with the Apostolic Nuncio (the Pope’s ambassador) Archbishop Francisco Montecillo Padilla, who was then in Dubai for the Jubilee celebrations.
Filipina expat Emolyn Bucsit, who is also the head coordinator at the church said: “Initially it was hard to believe that people can do it. But it is a sign of unity in the church, everyone came together regardless of culture, race or nationalities. Perhaps, even the pope was surprised.”
Suzanne Bou Dagher, the parish secretary, added: “While sitting there, my heart was beating fast, we were many nationalities, different ages. Some of the groups were competing for fun to finish pages faster. I got the passage about Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. Writing it was an amazing experience.”
A scanned copy of the bible sits enclosed in a well lit display, next to the altar at St Mary’s Church in Oud Metha.