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Pope hopes for religious freedom on his first visit to Bahrain

Pope hopes for religious freedom on his first visit to Bahrain

Posted November. 05, 2022 07:24,   

Updated November. 05, 2022 07:24


As Pope Francis on Thursday (local time) visited Bahrain, where around 70 percent of the population is Muslim, Catholics raised hopes that Catholic Church would open dialogue with the Islamic World. According to Reuters, Pope Francis started his three-night itinerary in Bahrain as the first-ever pope to visit the country and attended a welcoming event held by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. It is his 39th overseas trip since his inauguration. The pope accepted the king’s invitation to improve the bonds between Catholics and Muslims.

Sitting in a wheelchair due to knee pain, Pope Francis arrived at the entrance of Al-Sakhir Palace and stood up to share greetings with the king with a hug. King Hamad said that Bahrain upholds the freedom of all religions that allows their followers to practice rituals and build chapels. He emphasized that the national declaration made a few years ago defies religious discrimination, violence, and incitement, adding that the country seeks to reaffirm the common goal of making a peace-keeping effort and promoting tolerance.

Seventy percent of the Bahraini population of 1.7 million are Muslim. Unlike Saudi Arabia, it allows around 160,000 Catholics, most foreign workers, to practice religious ceremonies. In 1939, Bahrain became home to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia, the first Catholic church in the Gulf region.

Referring to Bahrain's constitution, the pope commented that the commitments enshrined in the country's constitution should be fulfilled consistently to make religious freedom complete and acknowledge equal dignity and opportunities sincerely in each religious group. He also openly opposed capital punishment, stating that the right to life is the top priority that should always be protected. He added that even those held accountable should not be deprived of the right to life. Since 2017, Bahrain has resumed the execution of the death penalty.

Concerning the poor working conditions, Pope Francis also said that people are supposed to stay safe and enjoy human rights no matter where they work. His message seemingly intended to point out that many foreign workers struggle in poor working environments in Qatar, which is soon to open the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Nov. 20.

Eun-A Cho achim@donga.com