“Yet, in the depths of the soul, in the intimacy of the heart, there flows the calm and silent fresh water of the Spirit, who refreshes our deserts and restores life to what is parched, who washes away all that soils us and quenches our thirst for happiness.”
Christians are a small minority in Bahrain, an island country in the Persian Gulf. More than 70% of the total population — 1.5 million — is Muslim, while there are only about 161,000 Catholics living in the country, according to 2020 Vatican statistics.
Sacred Heart Church was built in 1939 on land donated by Bahrain’s ruler, Sheikh Haman bin Isa Al Khalifa. It was the first Catholic church built in the Persian Gulf and is located in Manama, Bahrain’s capital and largest city, which has a population of approximately 200,000.
During the week, the church offers Mass in English, French, Malayalam, Tamil, Arabic, Filipino, Urdu, Sri Lankan, Spanish, Bengali, and Konkani. There are 10 Masses offered on Friday and about eight Masses offered every Sunday.
Pope Francis led Sunday’s prayer service in English, while his address was delivered in Italian with live English translation.
In his speech, Francis encouraged those who have discovered the joy of knowing and loving Christ not to keep it to themselves but to work to help it grow.
This joy, he said, is “born of a relationship with God, from knowing that despite the struggles and dark nights that we sometimes endure, we are not alone, lost, or defeated, because he is with us. With God, we can face and overcome everything, even the abyss of pain and death.”
The pope explained that the best way to help joy grow is “by giving it away.”
“Yes, Christian joy is naturally contagious, since the Gospel makes us go beyond ourselves to share the beauty of God’s love,” he said.
“It is essential, therefore, that this joy not be dimmed or left unshared in Christian communities,” he added, “that we do not restrict ourselves to doing things by force of habit, without enthusiasm or creativity.”
Pope Francis said it is Jesus Christ who unifies and “inaugurates the one language of love, so that different human languages no longer remain distant and incomprehensible.”
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“He breaks down the barriers of distrust and hate in order to create space for acceptance and dialogue. He frees us from fear and instills the courage to go out and meet others with the unarmed and disarming force of mercy,” he said.