Pope urges Gulf Christians to be seeds of love and peace

Francis led the Mass at Bahrain's National Stadium attended by thousands of migrant workers from Asia. When Jesus invites us to love our enemies, he “is not idealistic, but realistic”, for that is the only way “to shatter the chains". At the ecumenical meeting, the pontiff said that the Gulf is a laboratory of unity. “Precisely in our own deserts, the Lord loves to open up new and undiscovered paths and makes fountains of living water spring up”.

Awali (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis led Holy Mass this morning at Bahrain's National Stadium, the key moment of the third day of his Apostolic Journey to the Gulf country.

In his address, the pontiff thanked the faithful “for your gentle and joyful witness to fraternity, for your being seeds of love and peace in this land. Such is the challenge that the Gospel presents every day to our Christian communities and to each of us.”

Some 30,000 people attended the service, from Bahrain, but also from the other three countries in the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia (Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia), as well as other countries in the region.

The crowd included mostly Christian migrants from Asia, Africa, and other Middle Eastern countries, who often find themselves working in extremely difficult situations in the Gulf.

“I bring the affection and closeness of the Church, which looks to you and embraces you, which loves you and encourages you,” Francis said. “May the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Arabia, accompany you on your journey and always keep you in love for all."

In his  homily, the pope focused on the call to “love always and to love everyone” that Jesus, the only prince whose power is peace, asserted as a Christian response to the evil we suffer.

“Jesus is not idealistic, but realistic: he speaks explicitly of evil and enemies. He knows that within our relationships there is a daily struggle between love and hatred.”

Yet when faced with such a situation, he dares to propose an answer that “is surprising, bold and daring. He tells his disciples to find the courage to risk something that seems sure to fail. He asks them to remain always, faithfully, in love, despite everything, even in the face of evil and our enemy.”

Jesus does not ask us “to dream idealistically of a world of fraternity, but to choose, starting with ourselves, to practise universal fraternity, concretely and courageously, persevering in good even when evil is done to us, breaking the spiral of vengeance, disarming violence, demilitarising the heart.”

To do so with love means going beyond the circle of those closest to us. “This very land is a living image of coexistence in diversity, and indeed an image of our world, increasingly marked by the constant migration of peoples and by a pluralism of ideas, customs and traditions.

“It is important, then, to embrace Jesus’s challenge: ‘If you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?’ (Mt 5:46). If we want to be children of the Father and build a world of brothers and sisters, the real challenge is to learn how to love everyone, even our enemies”.

Christians from different confessions must bear witness to such love together. Francis stressed this yesterday evening in the ecumenical meeting held in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia, in the presence of representatives of other local Christian communities and the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew.

“The Christian people are called to come together so that the marvellous works of God may be accomplished in our midst. Our presence here in Bahrain as a little flock of Christ, scattered in various places and confessions, helps make us feel the need for unity, for sharing the faith. Just as on this archipelago firm connections exist between the islands, may it be also among us so that we are not isolated but united in fraternal communion.”

The pontiff recommended everyone perform the Prayer of Praise. “It is the antidote to sadness and the temptation to lament our interior inadequacy and our outwardly small numbers. Those who praise the Father are not disheartened by the smallness of the flock, but rejoice in the grandeur of being God’s children.”

The “Prayer of praise allows the Spirit to fill us with his consolation; it becomes a wondrous remedy for loneliness and homesickness. It allows us to feel the closeness of the Good Shepherd, even at times when we feel the absence of our pastors, as frequently happens in these lands. Precisely in our own deserts, the Lord loves to open up new and undiscovered paths and makes fountains of living water spring up.”

Pope Francis went on to praise the practice that has developed among Christians in Bahrain and in other Gulf communities “of making your church buildings available also to other communities for the worship of the one Lord. For not only here on earth, but also in heaven, there is a song of praise that brings us together, sung by the many Christian martyrs of various denominations.

“How many of them have there been in these recent years, in the Middle East and throughout the world, how many! They now make up a single starry sky, guiding our way as we journey through the deserts of history. We have the same goal: all of us are called to the fullness of communion in God.”

Lastly, Francis urged those present to bear witness together because “faith is not a privilege to be claimed, but a gift to be shared.”

Indeed, in Bahrain, such a gift has the simple and genuine face of charity; for example, “the assistance you provide to our brothers and sisters who arrive from elsewhere, of your humble Christian presence, and the witness you bear daily in the workplace by your understanding and patience, joy and meekness, kindness and a spirit of dialogue. In a word: peace.”