The Vatican

The Pope in Bahrain. Message of dialogue and coexistence in a world of wars.

In line with his visit to the United Arab Emirates in 2019, and with the Document on Human Fraternity, signed with the Grand Imam of al-Azhar in Abu Dhabi, Pope Francis is closing these days in the Kingdom of Bahrain a Forum for Dialogue on East and West for human coexistence, and sending a signal to Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Francisco Otamendi-November 4, 2022-Reading time: 4 minutes
pope barein

Photo: security guards stand next to the flag of Bahrain as they await the Pope's arrival at Sakhir Air Base in Awali. ©CNS/Hamad l Mohammed, Reuters

The visit of Pope Francis to Kingdom of Bahrain between November 3 and 6, reinforces the choice of the Al Khalifa royal family, in its desire to showcase the Kingdom's profile as a place of dialogue, tolerant welcome and peaceful coexistence between different cultures and communities, in a world bloodied by wars and conflicts.

The closest for Bahrain and the other countries of the Persian Gulf is Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula. But not too far away is the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, which affects Europe and the world, and for whose end the Holy Father urges prayer and dialogue.

Pope Francis wishes to "open our minds and make us understand that it is absolutely necessary for us to enter into a relationship of mutual respect and collaboration on the ground, wherever possible." These were the words of the Apostolic Administrator of the Vicariate of North Arabia, Monsignor Paul Hinderto the papal visit.

In two meetings that Hinder held with accredited journalists at the Vatican and through ACN, he stressed that "all the Pope's trips pursue the same purpose: to build a platform where, despite our differences in beliefs, we can create positive and constructive communities to build the future..... If the two major monotheistic religions do not find a minimum basis of understanding there is a risk for the whole world."

For the Apostolic Administrator of the Vicariate of North Arabia, "the Pope is building a common platform" and pointed out that this visit of the Pontiff to Bahrain follows in the wake of Abu Dhabi, and is "a continuation of his trips to Morocco, Iraq and Kazakhstan".

According to Fayad Charbel, a priest of the Sacred Heart Church in Manama, capital of the Bahrain archipelago, the papal visit helps to show that this country is a land "of dialogue and coexistence. For his part, Father Saba Haidousian, parish priest of the local Greek Orthodox community, stressed the importance of the trip for the Kingdom and for the entire Middle East, according to Fides, underlining that King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has long called for Bahrain to become a place of peaceful and free coexistence between the different religious communities. In his opinion, the Bahrain Forum for East-West Dialogue for Human Coexistence will focus international attention on Bahrain, showing all the norms of "coexistence between different" that characterize life in the Kingdom.

In the same vein, the meeting between Pope Francis and King Hamed, says Hani Aziz, pastor of the Evangelical Church of Manama, will also be an opportunity to send "a great message" in favor of a Middle East "free from the wars" that torment entire peoples.

Universal fraternity

Other media, such as Asia News, have emphasized that Pope Francis is visiting Bahrain "to resume dialogue with Islam and the East", and they support that the Pope's message is "a message of peace", at a time when many people are experiencing "various forms of conflict, hostility and wars", Paul Hinder, OFM, the current Apostolic Administrator of North Arabia, who for years, until a few months ago, was Vicar Apostolic of South Arabia, and who is the main ecclesiastical host of the Pope's visit to Bahrain.

In any case, there is unanimity that Francis' visit to Bahrain follows in the wake "of the process initiated" during his February 2019 visit to Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates, UAE), "a continuation of his trips to Morocco, Iraq and Kazakhstan." The Pope wishes to "open our minds and make us understand that it is absolutely necessary for us to enter into a relationship of mutual respect and collaboration on the ground, wherever possible," explained Msgr. Paul Hinder in an online meeting organized by Iscom on October 24. "The Pope is building
a common platform," he added.

At the same meeting, Bishop Hinder noted that the Pope's visit sends a "strong signal" to Saudi Arabia and Iran, which are engaged in a long-standing conflict. "It is not imaginable that his [the Holy Father's] stay will go unnoticed in Riyadh and Tehran," added the apostolic vicar of North Arabia.

The signing of the Document on Human Fraternity by the Grand Imam of al-Azhar and Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi, "is an event that for us remains a fundamental point of reference", and "in the territories of the Vicariate, we are called to keep alive the memory of this event".
and at the same time we must commit ourselves to developing its implications from the social point of view, from the point of view of dialogue and cultural and interreligious relations," he said shortly before the summer in Omnes.

Msgr. Paolo Martinelli, Apostolic Vicar of South Arabia. "In essence," adds Msgr. Martinelli, "religions must support universal fraternity and peace". Ferrán Canet, correspondent of Omnes in Lebanon, who often travels to Arabian lands, corroborates that, in his opinion, "the main reason for the trip is the same of Abu Dhabi, that is, to continue in that line of universal fraternity, of dialogue of religions, but not in terms of the content of faith, but in the line of what can be common, universal fraternity, apart from the Pope taking the opportunity to have meetings with the Christians there, such as a Mass with priests, religious, etc.".

"About Bahrain, the former apostolic vicar, now deceased, Monsignor Camillo Ballin, told me that he had had a very good reception from the authorities, with many facilities, unlike in other countries. Facilities for the new cathedral, the bishop's see, a house in which they could
spiritual exercises and various activities," says Ferrán Canet.

A logical itinerary

Asia News has stressed that "the apostolic journey of Pope Francis to Bahrain is part of an itinerary that has its own logic and that has previously touched Abu Dhabi, Morocco, Iraq and more recently Kazakhstan". This decision shows that "in the Pontiff's mind there is a positive strategy of rapprochement with the various internal currents of Islam", to try to revitalize or establish
"Paul Hinder, who, as Vicar of South Arabia, received the Pope in Abu Dhabi.

During his recent visit to Kazakhstan, the Pope praised the efforts of the Kazakh country to position itself as a place of multicultural and multireligious encounter, and for the promotion of peace and human fraternity. He was speaking at the seventh edition of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, an international meeting of world and traditional religions.
initiative that began twenty years ago under the auspices of the country's political authorities, as reported by Omnes.

The Kazakh congress approved a final Declaration in continuity with the one signed in Abu Dhabi in 2019, and it could be added that in line also with his prayer meeting with religious leaders in the Plain of Ur, in Iraq, and with successive events in Assisi, which continue the meetings convened by St. John Paul II since 1986. It is a key point of his pontificate.

The authorFrancisco Otamendi

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