The pontiff presided over the ceremony in a soccer stadium before some 30,000 people. Although the main objective of the trip was to participate in an interreligious conference, the last days focused on the Catholic community, which is a minority in this nation of 1.5 million inhabitants
Pope Francis arrives to preside over a holy mass at the Bahrain National Stadium during his apostolic journey, in Riffa, Bahrain, November 5, 2022. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS
Pope Franciscelebrated today a massive mass in a stadium in the town of Riffa, in Bahrain, where Catholics are almost entirely migrants, mainly from the Philippines and India, and in his homily he asked to reject the logic of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” in order to “end the spiral of revenge”.
The pope presided over the mass before about 30,000 people, according to the authorities, who filled this soccer stadium and who represented the nearly 80,000 Catholics of this country on the Persian Gulf, but faithful also came from neighboring countries such as Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to attend, as some explained, “something that happens only once in a lifetime”.
“Dear friends, I would like to thank you for your serene and joyful testimony of fraternity, to be a seed of love and peace on this earth. It is the challenge that the Gospel delivers every day to our Christian communities, to each one of us,” the pope said in his homily, which he preferred to deliver in Spanish.
People attend a holy mass presided over by Pope Francis at the Bahrain National Stadium in Riffa, Bahrain, on November 5, 2022. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
And everyone who attended this celebration told them: “today I bring the affection and closeness of the universal Church, which looks at you and embraces you, loves you and encourages you.”
In the stands or in the lawn many people waited for hours to attend Francis' mass, most of them from Philippines and India. Some explained that they have been in the country for about 20 years and mainly work in the refinery and services sector. “We are happy in Bahrain, and especially today with the pope's visit,” they assured.
Despite his knee problems, the pope wanted to greet the faithful and performed the traditional return to the stadium in the popemobile amid the shouts of joy from the faithful who shouted “Long live the pope” and “We love you daddy”.
Pope Francis greets as he leads a holy mass at the Bahrain National Stadium during his apostolic journey, in Riffa, Bahrain, on November 5, 2022. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
For many of them it is difficult to go to mass. In Bahrain there are only two churches: one small, that of the Sacred Heart, the first in the country built in 1939. The other is the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia, which Francis visited this Friday, inaugurated in December last year with capacity for almost 3,000 people, but in the middle of the desert and not accessible to everyone.
As Pope Francis reminded the authorities in the first speech of this four-day trip to Bahrain, half of the population of 1.4 million inhabitants is immigrant and it is they who have made it big and built this country.
“This land is precisely a living image of coexistence in diversity, of our world increasingly marked by the permanent migration of peoples and the pluralism of ideas, uses and traditions”, explained the pope in his homily.
Pope Francis in Riffa, Bahrain, on November 5, 2022. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
He assured them that God “suffers observing in our days, in so many parts of the world, ways of exercising power that are nourished by abuse and violence, that seek to increase their own space by restricting that of others, imposing their domination, limiting the fundamental freedoms and oppressing the weak”.
But that in the face of this, God asks “that we remain always, faithfully, in love, in spite of everything, even in the face of evil and enemy” and to reject the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” and “on the contrary, if someone slaps you on the right cheek, present them the other too”
“This is what the Lord asks of us, persevering in good even when we receive evil, breaking the spiral of revenge, disarming violence, demilitarizing the heart” and therefore indicated: “Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.”
The pope will conclude this day with a visit to the Sagrado Cora school zón, where he will meet with nearly 800 young people of various religions.
(With information from EFE)