Pope in Bahrain – Day Three: Heartfelt embrace of Catholics in the Gulf

As Pope Francis wraps up his third day in Bahrain, our correspondent digs into the warm encounters the Pope has had with Catholics living in the country and others nearby.

By Devin Watkins – Manama, Bahrain

There were fewer papal events on Saturday, but Pope Francis’ intinerary was no less interesting.

The Pope celebrated Mass in the morning in Bahrain’s National Stadium. It started at 8 AM, but by 6:00 AM the stadium was packed to the gills.

There were 111 nationalities represented, most of whom were Catholics, though many non-Catholics could be seen.

People even traveled from surrounding countries, some crossing the nearby bridge from Saudi Arabia very early in the morning to be there for the papal Mass.

It was an extremely emotional welcome the faithful of the Gulf region gave Pope Francis as he arrived in the Popemobile.

One of the visit’s organizers—who is not even Catholic—said she was unable to hold back her tears. Even seasoned journalists were moved by the Pope’s fatherly embrace at the Mass.

There were a few hours between the Mass and the evening’s event, but the Pope still had time to meet again with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, whom he thanked for his warm welcome to the Gulf nation.

Forming Bahrain’s young people

Later, Pope Francis met with young people packed into the Sacred Heart School, in Awali.

Bahrain’s only Catholic school is attended by students from all walks of life and from various religions, not only Christians.

One Muslim man recounted that he still recalls the deep impression his time at the school left on him, and the lessons he learned from the Apostolic Carmel sisters, five of whom currently run the school.

They are helped especially by lay people who have become missionaries, since most of them are foreign expat workers, like most Christians here.

The Apostolic Carmel sisters mostly hail from India but their interactions with the young people of Bahrain reveal how much they care about their students.

Nearing the finish line, and a new beginning

Pope Francis wraps up his Apostolic Journey to Bahrain on Sunday morning with a meeting with the Church’s local ministers: bishops, priests, religious men and women, and lay people.

His time in Bahrain will surely have left a mark on all those who have seen him, and even those who haven’t.

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05 November 2022, 17:52