Pope Francis to meet Muslim leaders, small Christian community in Bahrain
The logo and motto of the papal trip to Bahrain. VATICAN MEDIA
By Hannah Brockhaus
Catholic News Agency
October 7, 2022
ROME— On the first-ever papal visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain, Pope Francis will close a forum on dialogue, meet with the grand imam of al-Azhar, and pray at a new Catholic cathedral.
The Vatican released the full itinerary for the pope’s Nov. 3-6 trip to the Muslim island nation in the Persian Gulf.
The theme of the visit is “Peace on earth to people of goodwill,” inspired by Luke 2:14. The logo is a stylized image of two hands open toward God: one in the colors of the Vatican flag and one with the flag of Bahrain. An olive branch represents peace, while the text “Pope Francis” is in the color blue to represent the visit’s entrustment to the Virgin Mary.
Pope Francis will land in Awali, a small municipality about 12 miles south of Manama, Bahrain’s capital city, on Thursday, Nov. 3. After a private meeting with the king of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Francis will address members of the government and civil society.
On the second day of the visit, the pope will give the closing speech at the Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and West for Human Coexistence.
Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar, is also traveling to Bahrain to participate in the forum with Pope Francis. The religious leaders most recently met in September at an interreligious summit in Kazakhstan.
Francis will meet privately with el-Tayeb before speaking to members of the Muslim Council of Elders at the mosque of Sakhir Royal Palace.
The day will close with an ecumenical meeting and prayer for peace in Our Lady of Arabia Cathedral, consecrated on Dec. 10, 2021. The ark-shaped Catholic cathedral seats 2,300 people and was built as part of a 95,000-square-foot complex.
On Nov. 5, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at Bahrain National Stadium and meet with youth. His final morning, Nov. 6, will consist of a prayer meeting and Angelus with local Catholics at Sacred Heart Church in Manama.
Bahrain, located to the east of Saudi Arabia and west of Qatar, has a population of 1.7 million. The population is nearly 70% Muslim, with the majority belonging to the Shiite branch of Islam, the country’s state religion.
Christians, at approximately 210,000 people, make up 14% of the overall population, followed by Hindus at 10%.
There are an estimated 80,000 Catholics in Bahrain, many of whom are migrants from Asia, particularly the Philippines and India.
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