Bahrain’s invitation to Pope Francis is an act of checks and balances

The Catholic Church of Bahrain, under the Apostolic Vicariate of North Arabia, is preparing for a major event. The small nation of 1.41 million people wants Pope Francis to visit when he consecrates a cathedral on December 10.

The Pope was invited to visit the kingdom by King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa when his special envoy, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin in the Vatican November 25.

By inviting the Pope, the monarch underlines the importance of interreligious dialogue and understanding between different cultures and civilizations.

The monarch approved the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, signed in Abu Dhabi on February 4, 2019 by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed al Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar.

According to the official Bahraini news agency, the Pope expressed his “sincere thanks” to the monarch for “the kind invitation to visit the kingdom he loves and cherishes”.

After suppressing the 2011 Shiite uprising, the Bahraini government is trying to spread its wings further on the world stage.

Citing the threat of Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, Bahrain has sought refuge under the aegis of US security, which also includes Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Bahrain, an archipelago of 33 islands on the western coast of the Persian Gulf, is a Sunni kingdom with Shiites making up at least half of the population. The country, which was separated from Iran by a controversial referendum in 1970, has normalized its relations with Israel, Iran’s nemesis.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid recently inaugurated the Israeli Embassy in the capital Manama during a historic visit to Bahrain which crossed the red lines of the Islamic world by fostering mutual ties under the pretext of threats from the Iran.

Citing the threat of Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, Bahrain has sought refuge under the aegis of US security, which also includes Saudi Arabia and Israel. To prevent Iran from expanding its influence and exporting its revolutionary ideology to the island nation, Bahrain is hosting the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet at a logistics and security base.

In August 2020, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates officially normalized their relations with Israel in the United States-brokered Abraham Accords, which shifted the balance of power in the Middle East in favor of the Jewish nation.

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In early November, Bahrain conducted a five-day joint naval training exercise in the Red Sea with the United States, Israel and the United Arab Emirates. The Red Sea connects the Gulf of Aden with the Suez Canal, making it a key sea route, especially for tankers.

“Maritime collaboration helps protect the freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade, which are essential to regional security and stability,” said Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of the US Naval Forces Central Command, in a statement.

As a predominantly Islamic country, Bahrain is relatively religiously tolerant of its Persian Gulf neighbors due to its importance in banking and commerce.

While Bahrain’s constitution officially grants freedom of religion, there is also a provision that this freedom cannot violate established customs, policies or morals, which are influenced by Islam.

The cathedral, located in the municipality of Awali, mainly inhabited by immigrant workers employed in oil refineries, will be consecrated by the Philippine cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle

Most Christians in Bahrain find their roots in Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine and Jordan. The Christian community constitutes about one percent of the population, but the number of Christians of other nationalities living and working in Bahrain exceeds 100,000, mostly Asians from the Philippines and India.

On December 10, the kingdom will consecrate its largest cathedral, Our Lady of Arabia, which will be one of the main Catholic churches of the Apostolic Vicariate of North Arabia of which Bahrain is a part along with Qatar, Kuwait and Arabia. Arabia.

The cathedral, located in the municipality of Awali, inhabited mainly by immigrant workers employed in the oil refineries, will be consecrated by the Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, according to the agency of papal press Fides.

The cathedral, which can accommodate 2,300 people, was built on 9,000 square meters of land donated by the monarch of Bahrain to the apostolic vicariate.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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