Pope Francis Departs for Bahrain to Promote Interfaith Dialogue

Pope Francis left Rome on Thursday to travel to Bahrain as part of a trip to the Middle East.

Christians remain a minority across the wider Middle East but the Pope's visit was aimed at promoting interfaith dialogue with Muslim leaders.

The Bahraini government is hosting an interfaith conference on East-West coexistence.

Francis is on a four-day visit, the first of any pontiff to the island nation in the Arabian Gulf.

Francis will visit the capital of Manama and city of Awali during the trip.

The pontiff is likely to visit the cavernous Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia, in Awali, which opened its doors last year.

It was built to serve the country’s 80,000 or so Catholics, mainly workers from Asia, mostly India and the Philippines.

The pontiff received Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa at the Vatican in 2014.

The pair discussed “peace and stability in the Middle East” and the Christian community’s positive contribution to the country, the Holy See said at the time.

The trip comes on the back of another journey to a Muslim-majority country, following Francis’s visit to Kazakhstan earlier this month.