Pope to Bahrain clergy: Never tire of spreading God's joy

On final day of Pope Francis' Apostolic Journey to Bahrain, Pope encourages nation's clergy to joyously bring God's joy to the Gulf nation's diverse flock, and makes appeals for peace in Ethiopia and Ukraine

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Preserve and deepen your Christian joy, spreading it to all around you, and remember that with God, you can face and overcome everything.

Pope Francis offered this powerful reminder when speaking to bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, seminarians and lay pastoral workers, of Bahrain on Sunday in the Sacred Heart Church in Bahrain's capital of Manama.

This encounter marks the last public meeting of the Pope prior to his departure from the Middle Eastern Gulf nation, for his 39th Apostolic Journey abroad, for the Bahrain Dialogue Forum and to encourage the Muslim-majority nation's small, but fervent Catholic flock.

During his remarks, the Holy Father called for spreading Christian joy, he urged those present to let the Holy Spirit comfort and restore them and he encouraged them to be guardians of unity, who are credible and ready to engage in dialogue.

Listen to our report:

Harmony in the face of Jesus

The Pope expressed his delight to be "in the midst of this Christian community that clearly manifests its “Catholic” face," with a "universal face, a Church made up of people from various parts of the world who come together to profess our one faith in Christ."

Faithful in Sacred Heart Church
Faithful in Sacred Heart Church

He noted that some present were from Lebanon, and assured them, all peoples suffering in the Middle East, of his prayers and closeness to their "beloved" country, which has been "so weary and sorely tried."

“It is beautiful to be part of a Church composed of different histories and different faces that find their harmony in the one face of Jesus.”

Reflecting on this Sunday's liturgy, the Pope said that Jesus' words speaking of the living water flowing from Christ and His followers made the Holy Father think about their land.

Quenching our thirst for happiness

Despite there being a large expanse of desert, he observed there are springs of fresh water flowing underground that irrigate it. 

"That is a beautiful image of who you are and, above all, of how faith operates in our lives," he pointed out.

Pope in Sacred Heart Church
Pope in Sacred Heart Church

Even if on the surface humanity seems "parched" by fears, problems and weaknesses, he noted, the Spirit, in the intimacy of our heart and soul, "refreshes our deserts and restores life to what is parched, who washes away all that soils us and quenches our thirst for happiness."  

“The Spirit always restores life. This is the water of which Jesus speaks. This is the wellspring of new life that He promises us. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit, the tender, loving and rejuvenating presence of God within us.”

The Pope stressed that the Church was born "from the pierced side of Christ," from the water of rebirth in the Holy Spirit. 

"We are not Christians by our own merit or simply because we profess a creed," he highlighted, "but because the living water of the Spirit was given to us in baptism, making us beloved children of God, brothers and sisters of one another and a new creation." 

"Everything flows from grace; everything comes from the Holy Spirit," he said.

Three great gifts

The Pope focused on "three great gifts" that the Holy Spirit grants the faithful, and which the Spirit asks us to welcome and cultivate.

The first was the gift of joy, the Pope said, saying the Spirit is a wellspring of joy. 

"The fresh water that the Lord wants to make flow in the “deserts” of our humanity, earthly and frail," Pope Francis underscored, "is the certainty that we are never alone on the journey of life." 

The Spirit, the Holy Father said, does not leave us on our own. 

“The Spirit is the Comforter, who consoles us by his quiet and soothing presence, who accompanies us with love, supports us in struggles and difficulties, encourages our most beautiful dreams and deepest desires, and opens us to the wonder and beauty of life.”

The joy of the Spirit, however, is not an occasional feeling or a momentary emotion, but instead is "born of a relationship with God, from knowing that despite the struggles and dark nights that we sometimes endure, we are not alone, lost or defeated, because he is with us."

We can overcome everything with God

“With God, we can face and overcome everything, even the abyss of pain and death.”

The Pope urged them to "preserve this joy," and let it grow ever greater. The best way to do this, he insisted, is to give this joy away. 

Pope in Sacred Heart Church
Pope in Sacred Heart Church

"Yes, Christian joy is naturally contagious, since the Gospel makes us go beyond ourselves to share the beauty of God’s love.  It is essential, therefore," he said, "that this joy not be dimmed or left unshared in Christian communities..."

In addition to the liturgy, and celebrating Mass, "the source and summit of Christian life," the Pope said, "it is important that we spread the joy of the Gospel through a lively pastoral outreach, especially to young people and families, and through fostering vocations to the priesthood and the religious life." 

"We cannot keep Christian joy to ourselves," he noted, saying, "It multiplies once we start spreading it around."

God's sons and daughters

Second, the Pope continued, the Holy Spirit is a wellspring of unity. 

“All those who receive Him receive the Father’s love and are made his sons and daughters, and, if children of God, also brothers and sisters to one another.”

This means, he warned, there can no longer be room for works of the flesh, acts of selfishness, such as factions, quarrels, slander and gossip.

"Worldly divisions, but also ethnic, cultural and ritual differences cannot injure or compromise the unity of the Spirit," the Pope said.

"On the contrary," he continued, "His fire burns away worldly desires and kindles in our lives the warm and compassionate love with which Jesus loves us, so that we in turn can love one another."

The Pope said the Spirit inaugurates the one language of love.

“He breaks down the barriers of distrust and hate, in order to create space for acceptance and dialogue. He frees us from fear and instills the courage to go out and meet others with the unarmed and disarming force of mercy.”

This, the Holy Father recalled, is what the Holy Spirit does, and has done since the very beginnings of the Church, starting with Pentecost.

Guardians of unity

“Let us seek to be guardians and builders of unity! In order to be credible when we dialogue with others, let us live in fraternity among ourselves.”

He urged them to do so in their communities, religious houses, families, in the multi-religious and multi-cultural societies in which we find ourselves.

"I know that you are already offering a good example of walking this path," the Pope clarified, "but fraternity and communion are gifts that we must never tire of imploring from the Spirit." 

He said this is necessary in order to "fend off the enemy who always sows weeds." 

Faithful in Sacred Heart Church
Faithful in Sacred Heart Church

Our prophetic vocation

Turning to the third gift, the Pope said that the Spirit is a wellspring of prophecy, as he remembered that salvation history is full of prophets whom God calls.

The prophets, he reminded, receive an interior light from the Holy Spirit, which makes them attentive interpreters of reality, capable of perceiving God’s presence amid the frequently obscure course of history and making it known to the people, even when their words are scathing for calling out evil, pointing out falsities and calling for conversion.

“We too have this prophetic vocation. All who are baptized have received the Spirit and so become prophets.”

As such, he said, "we cannot pretend not to see the works of evil, so as to live a “quiet life” and not get our hands dirty."  Instead, we must get them dirty as we proclaim the Gospel with our living witness daily, including with meaningful gestures, like visiting prisoners.

"Caring for prisoners is good for everyone, as a human community," the Holy Father emphasized, "since the way in which these “least ones” are treated is a measure of the dignity and the hope of a society."

Steadfastness and joy

The Holy Father expressed his gratitude to those before him for these days together in Bahrain and gave his blessing.

“I encourage you to persevere in your spiritual and ecclesial journey with steadfastness and joy.”

Pope Francis concluded by invoking the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, whom, he noted, "I am happy to venerate as Our Lady of Arabia." 

"May she help us always to be guided by the Holy Spirit, and keep us joyful and united in affection and love," he prayed. 

Pope Francis in Bahrain
Pope Francis in Bahrain

Appeals for Ethiopia and Ukraine

During his Angelus address, the Pope recalled the prayers of the faithful for peace as the world undergoes war, and turned his attention specifically to Ethiopia and Ukraine.

“The agreement that has been signed concerning the situation in Ethiopia is a hope. I encourage everyone to support this endeavour for lasting peace, so that, with God's help, the paths of dialogue may continue and the people may soon find a peaceful and dignified life again.”

The Holy Father also prayed for peace in Ukraine.

“I also do not want to forget to pray, and to tell you to pray for, tormented Ukraine, that this war may end.”

Manama, Prayer Meeting and Angelus with Consecrated Persons 6 Nov 2022
06 November 2022, 07:55