Manama ( AsiaNews ) - Pope Francis has thanked the King of Bahrain for donating land to the Catholic community of the country, for a new Cathedral. The Pontiff expressed his "sincere thanks" with a letter that the Nuncio Msgr. Petar Radjic delivered in person to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, during an audience last February 4 (see photo).
The new cathedral will be dedicated
to Our Lady of Arabia, the patron saint of the Arabian Peninsula.
The King asked the nuncio to convey his greetings to Pope Francis, wishing him "health and happiness". He also appreciated the Pope's role in promoting a spirit of tolerance and coexistence in the world.
Stressing the urgent need to promote the values of tolerance, moderation and mutual understanding, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa reiterated the willingness of his country to witness to religious tolerance.
Bahrain's long standing willingness to witness to tolerance has led it to be the first country of the Arabian Peninsula to permit the construction of a church since 1939.
Christians who live in the country originally emigrated from Iraq and Iran. After
the oil boom, hundreds of thousands of Christians from Sri Lanka , India,
Lebanon , the Philippines and other Western countries arrived. At
Christmas and Easter the churches of Bahrain also host many Christians from
Saudi Arabia , where every religion other than Islam is prohibited. In
Bahrain, there are also Hindu and Jewish communities.
Msgr. Radjic told AsiaNews that in his letter, Pope Francis said that "with the donation of a new place of worship , His Majesty has shown that the Kingdom of Bahrain welcomes people of various nations and ethnic groups and religion, which are brothers and sisters in one human family, equal in dignity and worthy of esteem and respect".