By Cristina Cabrejas
Riffa, Bahrain, Nov 5 (EFE).- Pope Francis on Saturday held a large mass in a stadium in the Bahraini town of Riffa, where Catholics are almost entirely migrants, and in his homily he urged the rejection of the notion of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” in order to break the “spiral of revenge.”
The pope presided over the mass of about 30,000 people who represented the nearly 80,000 Catholics of this country on the Persian Gulf, but faithful also came from neighboring countries such as Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to attend, as some said, “something that happens only once in a lifetime”
“Dear friends, I would like to thank you for your serene and joyful testimony of fraternity, to be in this land a seed of love and peace. It is the challenge that the gospel delivers every day to our Christian communities, to each one of us,” the pope said in Spanish.
“Today I bring the affection and closeness of the universal church, which looks at you and embraces you, loves you and encourages you.”
The faithful had waited for hours. Many arrived at dawn to attend the mass, and most were from the Philippines and India. Some said that they had been in the country for up to 20 years and mainly work in the refinery and services sectors.
For many it is difficult to go to mass. In Bahrain there are only two churches — one small, that of the Sacred Heart, the first in the country built in 1939, and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia, which Francis visited on Friday. It was inaugurated in December last year with capacity for almost 3,000 people, but in the middle of the desert and not accessible to everyone.
As Francis reminded the authorities in the first speech of this four-day trip to Bahrain, half of the 1.4 million population are immigrants and have largely contributed to building this country and making it great.
“This land is precisely a living image of coexistence in diversity, of our world increasingly marked by the permanent migration of peoples and the pluralism of ideas, uses and traditions,” the pope said.
He stressed that God “suffers observing these days, in so many parts of the world, the ways of exercising power are nourished by abuse and violence, where people seek to increase their own space by restricting that of others, imposing their domination, limiting fundamental freedoms and oppressing the weak.”
But in the face of this, he said God asks “that we remain always, faithfully, in love, in spite of everything, even in the face of evil and the enemy” and that “an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” be rejected.
“This is what the Lord asks of us – persevering in good even when we receive evil, breaking the spiral of revenge, disarming violence, demilitarizing the heart,” and for this he said: “Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.”
The pope will conclude Saturday with a visit to the Sacred Heart school, where he will meet with about 800 young people of various religions. EFE