Pope Francis has been officially invited to visit the Kingdom of Bahrain by King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa, reported Fides News Agency.
The monarch’s invitation was brought to the Pope by Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, the King’s adviser on diplomatic affairs, who was received at the Vatican on Thursday, November 25, by both the Pope and Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, to whom he brought the invitation. This is reported by the state news agency of the Kingdom. During the visit to the Vatican, the envoy of the Bahraini monarch also conveyed the Pope’s greetings to the Pope, who “played the fundamental and pre-eminent role that Pope Francis played in creating and promoting interreligious dialogue and understanding between different cultures and civilizations, as well as in the spreading the values of human brotherhood and coexistence of all”. The monarch endorsed the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together – which was signed on February 4, 2019, in Abu Dhabi by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed al Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, and is convinced that on the basis of the principles contained therein, attempts could be made to build “a more prosperous future for all humanity”. The official Bahraini news agency also reports the Pope’s “sincere thanks” to the monarch of Bahrain for “the kind invitation to visit the kingdom he loves and cherishes,” as it is a “model of openness and coexistence between its various social components”.
The Pope – as stated in the official Bahraini report – also expressed his appreciation “for the wisdom of His Majesty King Hamed and his constant concern for the promotion of the culture of dialogue and tolerance” and praised his initiatives “aimed at consolidating and to spread the principles of coexistence and fraternity among all countries and peoples”.
The territory of the Kingdom of Bahrain consists of an archipelago of 33 islands on the west coast of the Persian Gulf. The country ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family was formerly an emirate that was converted into a constitutional monarchy in 2002. Bahrain established diplomatic relations with the Holy See in 1999. The first Catholic church to be built on the Persian Gulf in modern times is the Church dedicated to the Sacred Heart, which was built in 1939 in the Bahraini capital Manama on land donated by the Emir of Bahrain. In 2013 (see Fides, 13/2/2013) the Catholic Church received from King Ahmad bin Isa an additional 9,000 square meters of land in the parish of Awali, where construction of the Kingdom’s Catholic Cathedral, Our Lady, began in spring 2014 of Arabia will be dedicated. Bahrain, along with Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, is part of the Vicariate Apostolic North Arabia.