The following is the homily prepared by Friar Ed Debono, OFM Conv, for November 13, 2022. His reflection on Pope Francis' recent visit to Bahrain sheds important insight on St Francis and his relationship with other faiths. The Pope is an example for us.
Photo by Yousef
Malachi 4:1-2; Ps 98; 2 Thess 3:7-12; Luke 21: 5-19
I’m going to recount some highlights of Pope Francis’ visit to Bahrain. They are remarkable insights with regard to his thinking, the direction of his papacy and their importance for us as we go forward, with him, as Church.
From the time Pope Francis landed in Bahrain, the King, the Imam and all the people welcomed him and according to journalists it was a wonderful experience. One of the first photos that was sent around the world was of the King of Bahrain and Pope Francis enjoying one another’s company as they were both seen laughing. I think that initial encounter set the tone for the entire visit.
I read excerpts from Francis’ talks to various levels of the State, various groups and the general public. He did not speak of doctrines and theological topics and did not promote the Roman Catholic Church…but in a sense he did project and promoted the Church by his friendship, good humour, his love and respect of everyone.
He spoke of love, ecumenism and dialogue. He pleaded for peace and fraternity in a war-ravaged world. He was strong in saying “no” to the blasphemy of war. Francis promoted peaceful co-existence for all people.
On his second day, Francis joined several Christian leaders from the region for an ecumenical meeting and prayers for peace. Francis lamented divisions among Christians and made reference to “unity in diversity.” He mentioned Christian unity and witness are essential for ecumenism.
Pope Francis said that “God is the source of peace.” “God never brings about war, never incites hatred, never supports violence.” “Peace” he said, “is born of fraternity; it grows through the struggles against injustice and inequality; it is built by holding out a hand to others.”
Pope Francis told the people of Bahrain “I have come among you as a believer in God, as a brother, and as a pilgrim of peace.” “I have come among you so that we can journey together, in the spirit of Francis of Assisi, who liked to say, ‘As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that greater peace is in your hearts.’
Pope Francis stressed that we need to encounter one another “to get to know and to esteem one another, to put reality ahead of ideas and people ahead of opinions…” He added that we “need to put a future of fraternity ahead of a pasts of antagonisms overcoming historical prejudices and misunderstandings in the name of the ONE who is the Source of peace.”
Francis upheld the power of life, which surrounds the driest desert by ‘drawing upon the waters of encounter and peaceful coexistence.
“Ours, then, is a unique and inescapable duty to help humanity to rediscover the forgotten sources of life, to lead women and men to drink from the wellsprings of ancient wisdom, and bring the faithful closer to worship of the God of heaven and bring us closer to our sisters and brothers for whom God created the world.”
Pope Francis did not talk about Catholic doctrines, the Catholic faith or about building churches, rather he talked about building up relationships, building up friendships and fraternity. His ideas are more profound than they appear. We have to look at them again and dive deeper into their meaning, their faiths, because all of us are children of God and sisters and brothers to one another.
Think about what Pope Francis said, and ask yourself, what can I do to promote relationships, fraternity and friendship with people of other faiths?