At the general audience Francis reviews his recent trip, answering the question: why visit a country with a very large Islamic majority? "Dialogue is the oxygen of peace. The Christians of the Gulf invite us to broaden our horizons and dedicate ourselves to getting to know others". Commemoration of the Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos, "a far-sighted pastor".
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Dialogue, encounter and journey. These are the three key words of the apostolic journey to Bahrain that ended on Sunday, which - as is customary - Pope Francis wished to retrace ideally this morning addressing the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Wednesday general audience.
"One spontaneously wonders," he commented, "why did the Pope want to visit this small country with a very large Islamic majority? There are so many Christian countries: why doesn't he go to one or the other first. I would like to answer through three words: dialogue, encounter and journey'.
First of all dialogue, which is "the oxygen of peace, even in the family", the pope explained. Responding to the Bahraini king's invitation to a Forum on dialogue between East and West, Francis recalled the words of the conciliar constitution Gaudium et Spes on the need to "expand one's mind and heart beyond the borders of one's own nation, laying aside all national selfishness and all ambitions of supremacy" in order to contribute to peace.
"In Bahrain," he commented, "I felt this need and hoped that, throughout the world, religious and civil leaders would be able to look beyond their own borders, their own communities, to take care of the whole. This is the only way to address certain universal issues, such as the forgetfulness of God, the tragedy of hunger, the care of creation, peace. I am thinking of the insane war of which the tormented Ukraine is a victim,' he added, 'and of so many other conflicts, which will never be resolved through the childish logic of weapons, but only through the mild force of dialogue.
But there can be no dialogue without encounter. "Several times I have heard the desire that between Christians and Muslims encounters should increase, that stronger relations should be forged, that we should take each other more to heart. In Bahrain, people bring their hand to their heart when they greet someone. I did it too, to make space within myself for those I met. Because, without welcome, dialogue remains empty, apparent, it remains a matter of ideas and not of reality'.
However, the trip to Bahrain should not be seen as an isolated episode: it is part of a journey "inaugurated by Saint John Paul II when he went to Morocco", the Pontiff recalled. It was "a new step in the journey between Christian and Muslim believers: not to confuse or water down the faith, but to build fraternal alliances in the name of father Abraham, who was a pilgrim on earth under the merciful gaze of the one God of Heaven, God of peace".
"Dialogue, encounter and journey in Bahrain also took place among Christians," Francis added. "The brothers and sisters in the faith, whom I met in Bahrain, truly live 'on the way': they are mostly migrant workers who, far from home, find their roots in the People of God and their family in the great family of the Church. And they go forward with joy, in the certainty that God's hope does not disappoint".
"Thinking of their journey, of their daily experience of dialogue," he concluded, "let us all feel called to broaden our horizons, to open up and broaden our interests, to dedicate ourselves to getting to know others. Because the path of fraternity and peace, to proceed, needs everyone and each one'.
At the end of his greetings to the groups of pilgrims present in St Peter's Square, Pope Francis then recalled the figure of Sister Maria Carola Cecchin, a nun of the Cottolengo Sisters, who died in 1925, at the age of 48, after witnessing the Gospel of charity to African populations and was beatified in Kenya last Saturday. "May her example of a good and wise woman sustain all those who work to spread the Kingdom of God," Francis commented.
Finally, the Pontiff also addressed a thought to the late Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos II, who died on Monday. Recalling fraternal encounters during his trip to the island last year, the pope described him as a "far-sighted pastor, a man of dialogue and a lover of peace who sought to promote reconciliation between the country's different communities".