That is why Pope Francis will visit the Kingdom of Bahrain

Submitted by munir on Sun, 10/09/2022 - 09:07

Good news have spread regarding the nearing visit of Pope Francis' historic visit to the fraternal Kingdom of Bahrain which will take place in early November being absolutely the first papal visit to Bahrain, the second to a Gulf country, and the seventh to an Arab country.

Why does the Pope visit the Kingdom of Bahrain?


He visits Bahrain in the first place to consolidate the diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Bahrain, namely the two small states that concluded diplomatic relations on January 12, 2000. The Vatican incorporated the diplomatic relations with Bahrain within the northern Arabian Peninsula region through a nuncio residing in the State of Kuwait, as for Bahrain it posted its ambassador to the Holy See through a joint representation with the resident ambassador residing in France.


The diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the various countries of the world do not involve military cooperation. They involve rather spiritual, humanitarian, and cultural cooperation in order to emphasize common human values ​​such as peace, stability, dialogue, common living among peoples and nations. King Hamad ibn Issa Al Khalifah visited the Vatican in May 2014, Crown Prince Salman Ibn Hamad Al Khalifah visited the Vatican in February 2020, and King’s Adviser for Diplomatic Affairs Sheikh Khalid Ibn Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Al Khalifah visited the Vatican as well in November 2021, where he conveyed an official invitation to visit the Kingdom.


Secondly, the visit will contribute to consolidating the Christian presence in this fraternal Arab country, as the number of Christians stands at about 250,000 people (80,000 Catholics), most of whom are emigrants from Asian countries, out of  a total of 500,000 emigrants, compared to 700,000 Bahrainis. However, there are about a 1,000 Bahraini citizens who follow Christianity, all of whom enjoy equal religious and social freedom, not to mention that Bahrain has several Christians who work in various governmental, diplomatic, and social institutions.


Christians enjoy royal attention under the leadership of King Hamad Ibn Isa Al Khalifah, who donated a large plot of land to build a complex for the construction of churches and ecclesiastical offices. Last year, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia was inaugurated in the city of Awali to become one of the largest churches in the Middle East with a capacity of about 2,300 people. During his expected visit, Pope Francis will celebrate the Pontifical Mass at Bahrain National Stadium, will meet young people attending the Sacred Heart School in Awali, and will participate in an ecumenical meeting and prayer for peace at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Arabian Peninsula.


Thirdly, the visit will contribute to cementing Islamic-Christian relations, as Pope Francis is coming to participate at the conclusion of the Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: "East and West for Human Common Living”, patronized by the King of Bahrain, in the presence of Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb who had accompanied the Pope on his visit to Abu Dhabi in 2019 and signed with him the "Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together" which has become one of the most outstanding documents that address brotherhood and cooperation between Muslims and Christians in the world.


It is worthy to note that the Kingdom of Bahrain hosts numerous intellectual and dialogue institutions, most notably of which is the King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence, which was established by the King of Bahrain in 2018 to spread the values ​​of peaceful common living and acceptance of others in compliance with the Kingdom of Bahrain’s constant endeavor to build bridges of communication and to promote dialogue among different cultures and religions in the region and the world. During the papal visit, there will be several meetings that will strengthen the bonds of friendship with the Vatican and Islamic institutions, such as Pope Francis' meeting with the imam of Al-Azhar and with members of the Muslim Council of Elders.


We pray to God that this visit will be successful, despite the health condition of His Holiness the Pope, as he insists to continue to proceed on the path of benevolence by strengthening these relations with countries, east and west, which also aims at opening prospects for cooperation with all political, intellectual, and religious spectrums so that the dream can come true by which all people on this Earth would feel that they are brethren under the umbrella of divine love. We are confident that our brethren in Bahrain will excel in welcoming and organizing the activities of this visit, which will be described in the whole world as historic, fruitful, and of great value, God willing.

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By Fr. Dr. Rifat Bader