Book on historic first visit of Pope unveiled

A 300-PAGE souvenir book chronicling the historic first-ever visit of Pope Francis to Bahrain was released during a special ceremony last night at the Our Lady of Arabia Cathedral in Awali.

The book, emblazoned on the cover with a photo of Pope Francis with His Majesty King Hamad as well as the Pope’s slogan for the visit – Peace on earth to people of goodwill (Luke 2:14) – comprises photos from the Roman Catholic Pope’s visit from November 3 to 6, as well as royal and Holy See correspondence around the Apostolic Journey.

“This souvenir book holds a very special significance since it will help us recall the festive atmosphere and moments of joy that we experienced during the visit of His Holiness to Bahrain, ” the Holy See’s Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Eugene Nugent said during the unveiling last night.

Archbishop Nugent went on to thank those who made Pope Francis’ visit special, including His Majesty, His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, Sacred Heart Church, the parishes in the region, the volunteers and all those who provided support for the visit.

He also noted that the book had spiritual value and would serve as a solid foundation for firm ties between Vatican City and Bahrain for generations to come.

“I can never forget that sense of joy that exuded from the 30,000 people who had been waiting for hours at the National Stadium and who fell into silent prayer during the celebration of the Holy Mass on the morning of Saturday, November 5,” he added in written comments in the preface to the book.

“The beautiful way in which the liturgy was prepared and celebrated was something truly uplifting. The faithful who had come together from the different countries that make up the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia (AVONA), as well as Muslims from Bahrain who were also present, taught us a lesson in the beauty of holiness.”

The book comprises photos provided by the Vatican’s media team, alongside messages from the likes of AVONA Apostolic Administrator Paul Hinder, Holy See secretary for relation with states and international organisations Archbishop Paul R Gallagher, apostolic vicar of the Vicariate of Southern Arabia Bishop Paolo Martinelli, AVONA judicial vicar and chancellor Dr Antony Lopez, Sacred Heart School principal Sister Roselyn Thomas, Sacred Heart Church parish priest Father Xavier D’Souza and Our Lady of Arabia priest-in-charge Father Saji Thomas.

There are also messages from members of the various parishes detailing their personal experience of the visit, as well as details like the names of the Pope’s 44-person entourage.

The souvenir documents the history of Bahrain’s relations with the Vatican City and the growth of Catholicism in the Middle East, as well as the history of Sacred Heart Church, the first Catholic Church across the Gulf.

It also commemorates the meeting and friendship between Pope Francis and Muslim Council of Elders chairman and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Dr Ahmad Al Tayyeb.

Much of the book is a pictorial and editorial journey through the four days that Pope Francis spent in Bahrain, as seen through the eyes of a wide spectrum of devotees, from leaders of the church to the everyman.

During his 39th Apostolic Journey, Pope Francis addressed dignitaries at Sakhir Palace calling for an end to conflict, delivered the closing address at the Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and West for Human Coexistence, chaired the 16th meeting of the Muslim Council of Elders alongside Dr Al Tayyeb, delivered an Ecumenical address at the Awali cathedral, led a public Holy Mass for more than 30,000 devotees at the National Stadium and visited both the Sacred Heart School and Church.

A digital copy of the souvenir book will be made available on the Sacred Heart Church website.




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