VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis intends to foster dialogue between Catholics and Muslims during his coming trip to Bahrain, and will launch a message of peace to the Arabian Gulf.
The Pope will be in Bahrain from Nov. 3 to Nov. 6. The trip will begin with a visit at the Sakhir Royal palace to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, who invited him to come to the country.
This will be the tenth trip for Francis to a country with a Muslim majority and a tiny Catholic presence of nearly 80,000 out of a population of about 1.3 million.
“It will also be a ‘sign’ for Shiite Islam, in the framework of a strategy of rapprochement with different branches of the Muslim faith the Pope is following,” Fr Giuseppe Ciutti, an Italian priest who spent time in Iraq and studies the relationship between Islam and Catholicism, told Arab News.
Monsignor Paul Hinder, the apostolic administrator of the North Arabia apostolic region, which includes Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain, said at a press conference that the Pope’s trip to Bahrain followed the path begun with the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Common Coexistence,” which Francis signed in February 2019 in Abu Dhabi together with Sheikh Ahmed al Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of al Azhar, a figure of reference for Sunni Muslims.
Hinder believes that the Pope will carry out a “positive strategy” of rapprochement with the “different currents” of the Muslim faith and offer an invitation to continue along the path of dialogue with other religions.
Bahrain will be the 58th country visited during his pontificate by Pope Francis, and he will be the first pontiff in history to set foot there.
“It is an ancient land where different national, ethnic and religious groups coexist and therefore it is a precious step in the journey of fraternity the Pope has undertaken,” Bruni said.
A source in the Vatican told Arab News that “the Pope really appreciates the attitude to tolerance for Christians in Bahrain. Most of them are immigrants, poor people who left their countries — mostly Sri Lanka, India, Lebanon, the Philippines — to find a job so that they can sustain their families.”
The Pope will bless the new cathedral of Bahrain, Our Lady of Arabia. It was inaugurated on Dec. 10, 2021 on the 9,000 sq m of land donated by King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa. His grandfather, Isa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, in 1939 had donated another piece of land in Manama to build the country’s first Catholic place of worship, the Sacred Heart Church.
During the four-day visit, between Manama and Awali, the Pope will deliver seven speeches. The most-awaited moment is the mass, on Saturday, at the Bahrain National Stadium, which more than 20,000 people are expected to attend.
In Manama, Francis will participate in the “Forum for Dialogue between East and West.”
The Pope will also hold a meeting with the Muslim Council of Elders in the mosque of the Royal palace of that Arabian Gulf country and will also meet Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the most prestigious institution of Sunni Islam.