During his four-day visit to the country, which began on November 3rd, Pope Francis hopes to promote cooperation and interfaith dialogue between the various religious sects of Bahrain. Bahrain, a country with a majority Shiite Muslim population, is ruled by a Sunni royal family, and also features a sizeable Christian contingent that makes up about 10% of the country’s population. In addition to hosting Pope Francis, the meeting includes faith leaders such as Sunni Cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I, and several rabbis from the United States. At the conference, Francis calls for all people of good will to join in a “brotherhood of peace,” whether those people are Catholic, Muslim, Orthodox Christian, or follow any other creed.
This visit marks Francis’ third trip to the Middle East since 2019, after a 2019 trip to Abu Dhabi and a 2021 visit to Iraq. Bahrain is home to the Gulf’s first Catholic Church, the Sacred Heart parish, which opened in 1939, as well as its biggest one, Our Lady of Arabia Cathedral. It’s expected that Pope Francis will visit the cathedral during his stay, and follow that visit with a public mass in Bahrain’s national stadium on Saturday.