A family waits for Pope Francis' arrival in Bahrain's National Stadium on Nov. 5, 2022. Alexey Gotovsky/EWTN
Christians make a small minority in Bahrain. While it is more than 70% of Bahrain’s total population of 1.5 million is Muslim, there are about 161,000 Catholics living in the country, according to 2020 Vatican statistics. The country is home to two Catholic churches and 20 Catholic priests.
Pope Francis described Bahrain as “a living image of coexistence in diversity” and “an image of our world, increasingly marked by the constant migration of peoples and by a pluralism of ideas, customs and traditions.”
He added: “It is important, then, to embrace Jesus’ challenge: ‘If you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?’”
At the end of the Mass, Bishop Paul Hinder, the apostolic administrator of the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia thanked Pope Francis for showing “pastoral care for a tiny Church in a tiny country.”
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The bishop said: “Like your patron Saint Francis of Assisi, you are not afraid to build bridges with the Muslim world and to show your fraternal closeness to all people of goodwill regardless of their cultural background and religious belief.”
“We Christians in the Middle East—those of ancient Oriental tradition and those who as migrants temporarily live in this part of the world—try to implement the invitation of Saint Francis to his brothers to ‘live spiritually among the Muslims … not to engage in arguments and [simply] to acknowledge that [we] are Christians.’”
Pope Francis expressed his gratitude to the Catholics who had traveled from Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region to attend the Mass. He said: “I bring today the affection and closeness of the universal Church, which looks to you and embraces you, which loves you and encourages you.”
“May the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Arabia, accompany you on your journey and preserve you constantly in love towards all.”
Alexey Gotovsky contributed to this report.
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.