¿Why did the Pope want to visit Bahrain? “Dialogue, encounter and travel” – Exaudi


This morning’s General Audience took place at 9 a.m. in St. Peter’s Square, where the Holy Father met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and around the world.

In his address in Italian, the Pope focused his meditation on his recent apostolic trip to Bahrain.

After having summarized his catechesis in the different languages, the Holy Father addressed particular expressions of greeting to the faithful present.

The General Audience ended with the recitation of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Benediction.

Catechesis – The Apostolic Journey to the Kingdom of Bahrain

Dear brothers and sisters, hello!

It’s a little cold, isn’t it? But it’s beautiful.

Before I start talking about what I have prepared, I would like to draw attention to these two children who have come up here. They didn’t ask permission. They didn’t say, “I’m scared.” They went straight up. That’s the way we should be with God: direct. They gave us an example of how we should behave with God, with the Lord: go for it! He is still waiting for us. It was good for me to see the confidence of these two children. He was an example for all of us. This is how we must always approach the Lord – freely. Thanks.

Three days ago, I returned from my trip to the Kingdom of Bahrain, of which I really knew nothing. I really knew what this realm looked like. I would like to thank all those who accompanied this visit with the support of their prayers, and to renew my gratitude to His Majesty the King, to the other Authorities, to the local Church and to the people, for their warm welcome. And I also want to thank those who organize these trips. To do this there is a movement of people, the Secretary of State works a lot to prepare the speeches, to prepare the logistics, everything, there is a lot of movement… then the translators… and then, the gendarmerie corps, the body of Swiss guards who are wonderful…. All. It’s a colossal job! To all of you, to all of you, I would like to publicly thank you for everything you have done to make the Pope’s trip go well. Thanks.

He has just spontaneously wondered why the pope wanted to visit this small country with such a large Islamic majority? There are so many Christian countries – why not go to one or two of them first? I would like to answer in three words: dialogue, encounter and journey.

Dialogue: the opportunity for the much-desired Journey was offered by the King’s invitation to a Forum on dialogue between East and West, a dialogue that seeks to discover the richness that other peoples, traditions and beliefs possess. Bahrain, an archipelago made up of many islands, helps us to understand that we should not live in isolation, but by getting closer. In Bahrain, which is made up of islands, they got closer, didn’t they, they brushed against each other. The cause of peace demands it, and dialogue is “the oxygen of peace”. Don’t forget that. Dialogue is “the oxygen of peace”. Even for peace in our homes, right? If there is a war between husband and wife, with dialogue they can move forward in peace. In the family, dialogue, because peace is preserved through dialogue.

Nearly sixty years ago, the Second Vatican Council, speaking of the construction of an edifice of peace, declared that “it certainly demands that [men and women] extend their thoughts and minds beyond the limits of their own nation, that they put aside national selfishness and the ambition to dominate other nations, and that they harbor a deep reverence for the whole of humanity, which already journeys so laboriously towards greater unity” (Gaudium and spes, 82). That’s what the Council says. I felt this need in Bahrain and hoped that religious and civil leaders around the world could look beyond their own borders, their own communities, to care for the whole. This is the only way to face certain universal problems, for example, the forgetfulness of God, the tragedy of hunger, the care of creation, peace. These things can all be thought of together. In this sense, the Dialogue Forum entitled: “East and West for human coexistence” – it was the title “East and West for human coexistence” – encouraged the choice of the path of encounter and the refusal of showdown. How much we need! There is such a need to meet. I have in mind the madness of the – senseless – war of which the wounded Ukraine is the victim, and of many other conflicts, which will never be resolved by the childish logic of artillery, but only by the gentle power of dialogue. But in addition to Ukraine, which is tormented, this land. But think of the wars that last for years, and think of Syria – more than 10 years! — think, for example, of Syria, think of the children of Yemen, think of Myanmar: everywhere! Right now, Ukraine is closer. And what does war do? It destroys, it destroys humanity, destroys everything. Conflicts should not be resolved by war.

But there can be no dialogue without the second word – meet. The first word – dialogue. The second word – encounter. We met in Bahrain. Several times, I have heard emerge the desire that encounters between Christians and Muslims increase, that they establish stronger relations, that this be taken more to heart. As is customary in the East, in Bahrain people place their hand over their heart when greeting someone. I did it too, to make room in myself for the person I was meeting. Because without this reception, the dialogue remains empty, semblance, it remains at the level of an idea rather than a reality. Among the many meetings, I remember the one with my dear Brother, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar – my dear brother – and the one with the young people of the Sacred Heart School, students who gave us an enormous example: Christians and Muslims studying together. Young people, boys and girls, children need to get to know each other so that the fraternal encounter can prevent ideological divisions. And now I would like to thank Sacred Heart School; I thank Sister Rosalyn who developed this school so well, and the children who participated with their speeches, through prayer, dancing, singing – I remember it very well! Thanks a lot! But even the elderly offered testimony of brotherly wisdom. I remember meeting with the Muslim Council of Elders, an international organization established a few years ago that promotes good relations between Islamic communities under the banner of respect, moderation and peace, opposing fundamentalism and violence.

So we come to the third word: journey. The trip to Bahrain should not be considered an isolated episode. This was part of a process initiated by Saint John Paul II during his trip to Morocco. Thus, the first visit of a pope to Bahrain represents a new step in the journey between Christian and Muslim believers – not to confuse things or water down the faith, no. Dialogue does not dilute, but creates fraternal alliances in the name of our Father Abraham, who was a pilgrim on earth under the merciful gaze of the one God of Heaven, the God of peace. This is why the motto of the trip was: “Peace on earth to men of good will”. And why did I see that the dialogue does not water down? Because to dialogue, you have to have your own identity. If you don’t have your own identity, you can’t dialogue because you don’t even understand who you are. For a dialogue to be good, it must always be rooted in its own identity, it must be aware of its own identity, and from there the dialogue can take place.

Dialogue, encounter and travel in Bahrain also took place among Christians. For example, the first meeting was ecumenical, a prayer for peace with the dear Patriarch and Brother Bartholomew, and with brothers and sisters of various confessions and rites. It took place in the cathedral dedicated to Our Lady of Arabia, whose structure resembles a tent, where, according to the Bible, God would meet Moses in the desert along the journey. The brothers and sisters in faith, whom I met in Bahrain, truly live “on the road”. They are mostly immigrant workers who, far from home, discover their roots in the People of God and their families within the great family of the Church. It is wonderful to see these migrants – from the Philippines, India and elsewhere – Christians coming together and supporting each other in faith. And they go forward with joy, in the certainty that God’s hope does not disappoint (cf. rm 5:5). Meeting pastors, consecrated men and women, pastoral agents, and in the festive and moving Mass celebrated in the stadium with so many faithful who also came from other Gulf nations, I brought them the affection of all the Church. It was the trip.

And today I would like to convey to you their authentic, simple and beautiful joy. As we met and prayed together, we felt like one heart and one soul. Thinking of their journey, of their daily experience of dialogue, do we all feel called to broaden our horizons – open your hearts, please! Not closed, hard hearts. Open your hearts because we are all brothers and sisters and so that this human brotherhood can move forward. Broaden your horizons, be open, broaden your interests and dedicate ourselves to getting to know others. If you dedicate yourself to knowing others, you will never be threatened. But if you are afraid of others, you will be threatened. Each person is necessary for the path of brotherhood and peace to progress. I can give my hand, but if there’s no hand on the other side, it doesn’t matter. May Our Lady help us on this journey! Thanks!


Special greetings

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims participating in today’s Audience, especially those from Denmark, Finland, Canada and the United States of America. Upon you all I invoke the joy and peace of Christ our Lord. God bless you!


Summary of the words of the Holy Father

Dear brothers and sisters,

My recent apostolic journey to Bahrain was occasioned by the International Forum for Dialogue, which brought together leaders of different religions in the service of peace. Dialogue is indeed “the oxygen of peace”, opening minds and hearts to encounter and breaking down the walls of violence and division. In our world torn by war and conflict, religious and civil leaders, and all people of good will, are challenged to look beyond narrow interests and seek unity and peace for the whole family. human. My visit to Bahrain, a predominantly Muslim country, was a new stage on the promising path of dialogue, encounter and fraternal cooperation between Christians and Muslims. During this time, I was also able to join Christian leaders in a choral prayer for peace and celebrate Holy Mass with the Catholic community in Bahrain and the greater Gulf region. May the prayers of Our Lady of Arabia confirm them in their joyful testimony of faith and help all believers to persevere on the path of peace, understanding and fraternal coexistence.


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