Pope Francis: Bahrain trip ‘a new step’ in Christian-Muslim dialogue

Hannah Brockhaus   By Hannah Brockhaus for CNA


Pope Francis speaking at the general audience on St. Peter’s Square, Nov. 9, 2022 / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA. See CNA article for full slideshow. 

Rome Newsroom, Nov 9, 2022 / 03:34 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday his trip to the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain was a new step on the journey to create “fraternal alliances” between Christians and Muslims.

The pope spoke about his Nov. 3-6 visit to Bahrain, a small, overwhelmingly Muslim country in the Persian Gulf, during his weekly public audience in St. Peter’s Square Nov. 9.

“The journey to Bahrain should not be seen as an isolated episode,” he said. “It was part of a process initiated by Saint John Paul II when he went to Morocco.”

This is why, he continued, “the first visit of a pope in Bahrain represents a new step on the journey between Christian and Muslim believers — not to confuse things or water down the faith, but to create 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.”

“And why do I say that dialogue does not water down [the faith]?” Francis said. “Because to dialogue you have to have your own identity, you have to start from your identity. If you do not have identity, you cannot dialogue, because you do not understand what you are either.”

The Papal Swiss Guard at St. Peter's Square, Nov. 9, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
The Papal Swiss Guard at St. Peter’s Square, Nov. 9, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

The motto of Pope Francis’ visit to Bahrain was “Peace on earth to people of goodwill.” The trip included encounters with government officials, Muslim leaders, and the small Catholic community, including a Mass with around 30,000 people in Bahrain’s national soccer stadium.

The small Christian minority in Bahrain is mostly made up of immigrants, especially from India and the Philippines.

More than 70% of the total population — 1.5 million — is Muslim, while there are only about 161,000 Catholics living in the country, according to 2020 Vatican statistics.

Pope Francis said Wednesday it was “marvelous” to see the many Christian immigrants in Bahrain.

“The brothers and sisters in the faith, whom I met in Bahrain, truly live ‘on a journey,’” he said. “For the most part, they are immigrant laborers who, far from home, discover their roots in the People of God and their family within the larger family of the Church. And they move ahead joyfully, in the certainty that the hope of God does not disappoint.”

The pope pointed out that the Kingdom of Bahrain is an archipelago of 33 islands, which “helps us understand that it is not necessary to live by isolating ourselves, but by coming closer” — something which aids peace.

He said “dialogue is the ‘oxygen of peace,’” not only in a nation but also in a family: Dialogue can help bring peace to a husband and wife who are fighting, for example.

Throughout his visit to Bahrain, Francis said, he heard several times the desire to increase encounters and strengthen the relationship between Christians and Muslims in the country.

He recalled a custom in that part of the world to place one’s hand on the heart when greeting another person. “I did this too,” he said, “to make room inside me for the person I was meeting.”

“For without this welcome, dialogue remains empty, illusory, it remains on the level of an idea rather than reality,” he said.

Francis encouraged Catholics to have “open hearts,” not closed, hard hearts, and said he would like to transmit the “genuine, simple, and beautiful joy” of the Christian priests, religious, and lay people he met in Bahrain.

“Meeting each other and praying together, we felt we were of one heart and one soul,” he said.

At the beginning of the general audience, Pope Francis drew attention to two “courageous” children who had approached the platform where he was sitting.

These children “didn’t ask permission, they didn’t say, ‘Ah, I’m afraid’ — they came directly,” he said. “They gave us an example of how we are to be with God, with the Lord: go for it.”

“He is always waiting for us,” he continued. “It did me good to see the trust of these two children: it was an example for all of us. This is how we must always approach the Lord: with freedom.”


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  1. True dialogue is a very serious undertaking. It’s a win-win opportunity in world-building. “To dialogue you have to have your own identity, you have to start from your identity. If you do not have identity, you cannot dialogue” – Pope Francis

    • Dear Sir:

      Should the following verses be a guide for our dialogue with the non believer?

      James 4:8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

      2 Peter 3:16 As he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

      James 1:5-8 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

      Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

      2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

      God bless you,


  2. The approach to Islam is untidy at best and unreliable. The reference to JPII does not fix it. I for one can not distinguish from here which of the Muslims are not in the Lodge. It is also not clear how those “alliances” relate with the pro-life effort that JPII had fruitfully established at the UN, with Muslims. Not clear further, how the alliances redound into local situations across the globe. Some Muslim “insiders” will have a grasp of what is happening and others in the Muslim circles will either take them on trust or distrust the content; but either way, however, many people like myself have no added factual or truthful material with which to address those groups or individuals in our areas, or the content. Muslims who share candidly are but a scattering of individuals.

    We still have to go on what we had already: charity, not dialogue, is the form of the virtues.

    Patriarch Bartholomew is mixed up with certain globalist circles, whom he courts in order to try to advance his sense of Orthodox destiny; quite at odds with other Orthodox and with Christianity and with VATICAN II and with the Fatima message and with the Roman faith. They want to sing the songs of peace and kiss the kisses of humility, with all the cameras; but the Bartholomew lobby is the same cross-section of maniacs cheering the bombing up of Syria as from before 2011 “Arab Spring” and of the Donbass as from before 2014 “Maidan”. Not to mention the vaccine.

    So has Bartholomew finally taken heed of the Pope’s cries against arms trading all these years?

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