The Holy Father recalls his visit to Bahrain
At the General Audience in Saint Peter’s Square on Wednesday morning, 9 November, Pope Francis reflected on his recent Apostolic Journey to Bahrain, pointing to three keywords that sum up his experience: dialogue, encounter and journey. The Holy Father also expressed his closeness to the people of Cyprus after the passing of His Beatitude Chrysostomos II and renewed his invitation to pray for martyred Ukraine. The following is a translation of the Holy Father’s words which he shared in Italian.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Before I begin to speak about what I have prepared, I would like to draw attention to these two children who came up here. They did not ask permission. They did not say, “I am afraid”. They came up directly. This is how we have to be with God: direct. They have given us an example of how we should behave with God, with the Lord: go ahead! He is always waiting for us. It was good for me to see the trust of these two children. It was an example for all of us. This is how we should always draw near the Lord — freely. Thank you.
Three days ago, I returned from my trip to the Kingdom of Bahrain which I truly did not know. I did not really know what that kingdom was like. I would like to thank everyone who accompanied this visit through the support of their prayers, and to renew my gratitude to His Majesty the King, the other Authorities, the local Church and the people, for their warm welcome. And I would also like to thank those who organize these journeys. To make this trip happen, it takes a bustle of people. The Secretariat of State works a lot to prepare the discourses, to prepare the logistics, everything, there is a lot of activity… then the translators… and then, the Gendarmerie Corps, the Swiss Guards Corps, who are wonderful. It is a tremendous amount of work! To everyone, to all of you, I would like to thank you publicly for all that you do to ensure that the Pope’s journeys go well. Thank you.
It is natural to wonder why the Pope wanted to visit this small country with such a large Islamic majority. There are so many Christian countries — why not go to one of them first? I would like to respond through three words: dialogue, encounter and journey.
Dialogue: the opportunity for the long-desired Journey was afforded by the invitation of the King to a Forum on dialogue between the East and the West, a dialogue that seeks to discover the richness that other peoples, traditions and beliefs possess. Bahrain, an archipelago formed by many islands, helped us understand that one must not live in isolation, but by drawing closer. In Bahrain, which is made up of islands, they drew close, they brush up against each other. The cause of peace requires this, and dialogue is “the oxygen of peace”. Do not forget this. Dialogue is the oxygen of peace. Even for peace in our homes. If there is war there between husband and wife, they can move ahead in peace, with dialogue. In the family, too, dialogue; dialogue, for peace is preserved through dialogue. Almost 60 years ago, the Second Vatican Council, speaking about building an edifice of peace, stated that “it certainly demands that [men and women] extend their thoughts and their spirit beyond the confines of their own nation, that they put aside national selfishness and ambition to dominate other nations, and that they nourish a profound reverence for the whole of humanity, which is already making its way so laboriously toward greater unity” (Gaudium et Spes, 82). I sensed this need in Bahrain and I hoped that religious and civil leaders throughout the world might be able to look beyond their own borders, their own communities, to care for the whole. This is the only way to confront certain universal issues, for example, that God is being forgotten, the tragedy of hunger, the care of creation, peace. These things can be thought of all together. In this sense, the Forum for dialogue, entitled “East and West for Human Coexistence”, encouraged choosing the path of encounter and rejecting that of confrontation. How much we need this! There is such a need to encounter each other. I am thinking of the insanity of war — insane! — of which martyred Ukraine is a victim, and of many other conflicts, that will never be resolved with the infantile logic of weapons, but only with the gentle power of dialogue. But in addition to Ukraine, which is being tormented, let us think of the wars that have been going on for years, and let us think of Syria — more than 10 years! — let us think, for example, of Syria, let us think of the children in Yemen, let us think of Myanmar: everywhere! Right now, Ukraine is closer. What do wars do? They destroy, they destroy humanity, they destroy everything. Conflicts should not be resolved through war.