Pope receives king of Bahrain, where the largest church in the Arabian Peninsula will be built
King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa gave Pope Francis a scale model of the church. The two leaders also talked about Mideast peace and inter-faith coexistence.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis and King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain discussed peace in the Middle East and inter-faith coexistence during their meeting today. The Bahraini monarch used the occasion to present the pontiff with a scale model of the "largest church in the Arabian Peninsula," which is slated for construction in the small Gulf state.

"The cordial discussions," the Vatican said in a press release, "focused on various themes of common interest, with particular reference to the commitment towards peace and stability in the Middle East, as well as the promotion of dialogue and peaceful co-existence among all members of society."

Similarly, "Mention was [. . .] made of the Christian community's positive contribution to the country, and appreciation was expressed for His Majesty's personal interest in the needs of the local Catholic community."

The meeting between the Holy Father and the Bahraini monarch lasted 27 minutes in the presence of an interpreter. King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa was accompanied by an entourage of seven aides, all men.

The king wore a turban and traditional attire in white and gold. Three of his aides were also in traditional dress; the other wore Western clothes.

After the private meeting, gifts were exchanged. The king gave the pope a large red box with a scale model of the future Catholic Vicariate of Bahrain.

"The largest church in North Arabia, which will be built in the Kingdom of Bahrain" and today's date were inscribed on the model.

In offering the gift to Pope Francis, the King of Bahrain also described the area where the Catholic Vicariate will rise, built near two mosques, one from the early Islamic era and the other inaugurated in 1988, and an Islamic cultural centre. "The two nearby mosques will protect the vicariate," King Hamad said.

The Pope reciprocated by giving his guest a medal with the Angel of Peace, explaining to him that it is a "symbol of peace and solidarity."

After the papal audience, the Bahraini delegation met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, and Secretary for Relations with States Dominique Mamberti.