Pope ends Bahrain trip with visit to Gulf's oldest church

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[1/5] Pope Francis attends a gathering and an Angelus supplication with bishops, priests, consecrated persons, seminarians and pastoral workers astatine Sacred Heart Church, connected the past time of his apostolic journey, successful Manama, Bahrain, November 6, 2022. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

MANAMA, Bahrain, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Pope Francis departed from Bahrain connected Sunday aft a four-day travel that culminated with a sojourn to the Gulf's oldest Catholic church, wherever helium told bishops, priests and nuns to stay agreed arsenic they ministered to the faithful successful the bulk Muslim area.

The past lawsuit was astatine Sacred Heart church, built successful 1939 connected onshore donated by the then-ruler, putting Bahrain connected the roadworthy to becoming 1 of the astir accommodating countries successful the portion for non-Muslims.

Bahrain has 2 Catholic churches, including a modern cathedral that is the largest religion connected the Arabian Peninsula, and has astir 160,000 Catholics, astir of them overseas workers. Many Catholics besides sojourn from neighbouring Saudi Arabia, which bars nationalist worship by non-Muslims.

Francis, who suffers from a genu ailment that forced him to usage a wheelchair during the trip, told section Catholic leaders to debar factions, quarrels and gossip.

"Worldly divisions, but besides ethnic, taste and ritual differences, cannot injure oregon compromise the unity of the Spirit," helium said.

There are astir 60 priests moving among an estimated 2 cardinal Catholics dispersed crossed 4 countries successful North Arabia, said Bishop Paul Hinder, the Vatican's apostolic vicar for the area, citing sometimes "very hard conditions" for those who service the assemblage owed to restrictions successful immoderate states.

At the extremity of the religion service, Pope Francis thanked King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa for Bahrain's "exquisite hospitality".

King Hamad and Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar mosque and assemblage who was besides successful Bahrain, greeted the pontiff astatine the airdrome earlier helium near for Rome, authorities TV showed.

Pope Francis' visit, wherever helium closed an East-West dialog hosted by Bahrain, continues his argumentation of improving ties with the Islamic satellite pursuing a historical sojourn to the United Arab Emirates successful 2019.

But it besides drew attraction to tensions betwixt Bahrain's Sunni Muslim monarchy and the Shi'ite absorption that accuses the authorities of overseeing quality rights abuses, a complaint authorities deny.

The pope stressed human rights successful his archetypal code successful Bahrain, speaking against the decease punishment and calling for "ensuring respect and interest for each those who consciousness astir astatine the margins of society, specified arsenic immigrants and prisoners".

Foreigners, mostly low-paid migrant workers, signifier the backbone of economies successful the oil-producing region. Thousands of Catholics successful Bahrain and from astir the Gulf poured into a stadium to perceive the Pope accidental Mass connected Saturday.

Later that time relatives of death-row and life-sentence inmates successful Bahrain, which crushed a pro-democracy uprising successful 2011, held a small protest on the pope's motorcade way until policemen intervened to extremity it.

At the East-West dialogue, the pontiff focused connected the role of religions successful promoting bid and disarmament. Earlier helium touched connected the "forgotten war" successful Yemen wherever 7 years of struggle has caused a dire humanitarian crisis.

Reporting by Philip Pullella; Additional reporting by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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