Thousands pack Bahrain national stadium for pope’s main Mass

Nov 4, 2022, 10:57 PM | Updated: Nov 5, 2022, 9:47 am

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate mass at the Bahrain National Stadium in Riffa, Bahrain, Saturday,...

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate mass at the Bahrain National Stadium in Riffa, Bahrain, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. Pope Francis is making the November 3-6 visit to participate in a government-sponsored conference on East-West dialogue and to minister to Bahrain's tiny Catholic community, part of his effort to pursue dialogue with the Muslim world. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Thousands of Christians from around the Gulf packed Bahrain’s sports stadium on Saturday for Pope Francis’ big Mass, as he shifted the attention of his four-day visit to ministering to the Catholic community in the overwhelmingly Muslim region.

The English-language liturgy was clearly geared toward the South Asian migrant workers who make up the bulk of the Gulf’s Catholics, with prayers in Malay, Tagalog and Tamil and a priest offering English translations of the pope’s native Spanish homily.

Pilgrims wearing identical white caps to shade them from the morning sun waved the yellow and white flags of the Holy See as Francis looped around the Bahrain National Stadium in his popemobile before Mass. A big cheer erupted when he kissed a young girl in a bubble-gum pink dress who was brought to the vehicle.

According to the Vatican, local organizers estimated some 30,000 people attended the service. Organizers had said that passes to the event were snapped up within two days of them becoming available, with pilgrims coming from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Gulf countries.

“This is actually a very huge honor,” said Bijoy Joseph, an Indian living in Saudi Arabia who attended. “This is like a blessing for us to be part of our Holy Father’s papal Mass in Bahrain.”

Francis is on the first-ever papal visit to the island kingdom the size of New York City that lies off the coast of Saudi Arabia. The primary aim was to participate in a government-sponsored interfaith conference to promote Catholic-Muslim dialogue. But for the final two days, he shifted gears to focus on ministering to the Catholic community, a minority in the country of around 1.5 million.

Most are workers from India, Pakistan, the Philippines and other South Asian countries, many of whom have left behind their families to work in Bahrain’s construction, oil extraction and domestic service industries.

In his homily, Francis urged them to do good, and turn the other cheek, “even when evil is done to us.”

“There will be cases of friction, moments of tension, conflicts and opposing viewpoints, but those who follow the Prince of Peace must always strive for peace. And peace cannot be restored if a harsh word is answered with an even harsher one,” he said. “No, we need to ‘disarm,’ to shatter the chains of evil, to break the spiral of violence, and to put an end to resentment, complaints and self-pity.”

Sebastian Fernandez, an Indian living in Bahrain, said he was blessed to be able to attend. “It will be a fruitful Mass and we are happy to see our pope,” he said.

After the Mass, Francis was meeting with young people at the Sacred Heart school, which dates from the 1940s and is affiliated with the church of the same name that was the first Catholic Church built in the Gulf. Francis wraps up his visit Sunday meeting with priests and nuns at the church.


Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign rally Saturday, March 9, 2024, at Pullman Yards in Atlanta...

Associated Press

US shoots down ‘nearly all’ Iran-launched attack drones as Biden vows support for Israel’s defense

Joe Biden cut short a weekend stay at his beach house to meet with his national security team as Iran launched an attack against Israel.

15 hours ago

Protesters in Phoenix shout as they join thousands marching around the Arizona state Capitol after ...

Associated Press

Abortion ruling supercharges Arizona to be an especially important swing state

A ruling this week instituting a near-total abortion ban supercharged Arizona's role, turning it into the most critical battleground.

1 day ago

Former President Donald Trump, center, appears in court for his arraignment, Tuesday, April 4, 2023...

Associated Press

Manhattan court searching for jurors to hear first-ever criminal case against a former president

Jury selection is set to start Monday in former President Donald Trump's hush money case — the first trial of the presumptive nominee.

1 day ago

Emergency personnel arrive on the scene after a  an 18-wheeler crashed into the Texas Department of...

Associated Press

1 dead and 13 injured in semitrailer crash at a Texas public safety office, with the driver jailed

A driver rammed an 18-wheeler though the front of a building where his renewal for a commercial driver’s license had been rejected.

1 day ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a Get Out The Vote rally ...

Associated Press

Trump pushes Arizona lawmakers to ‘remedy’ state abortion ruling that he says ‘went too far’

Donald Trump urged Arizona lawmakers on Friday to swiftly “remedy” the state court ruling allowing prosecutors to enforce an abortion ban.

1 day ago

Biden to require more gun dealers to run background checks....

Associated Press

Biden administration will require thousands more gun dealers to run background checks on buyers

New Biden rule to require thousands more firearms dealers across the United States will have to run background checks on buyers.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles



Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

Thousands pack Bahrain national stadium for pope’s main Mass