FAITH DELEGATION IN ROME … POPE FRANCIS SPEAKS TO ARAB TIMES

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Calls for coexistence

LAST November, the attention of the entire world was focused towards brotherly Bahrain, when the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis was a dear guest of the Kingdom when he was on an official visit that lasted four days upon the invitation of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Th e visit was the third to a Gulf nation and seventh to the Arab world. Despite his advanced age, (he is 85 years old) and suffering from knee pain due to a rupture in one of the ligaments, which forced him to use a wheelchair for some time, His Holiness was keen to participate in all the events and activities of the visit, including the Bahrain Forum for Dialogue.

He also presided over a mass attended by 30,000 Arab and Asian Christians living in Bahrain. Pursuant to the principle of “Response to the salutation,” the Pope — the head of the Catholic Church, the bishop of Rome and sovereign of the Vatican City State. Francis is the first Pope to be a member of the Society of Jesus — invited a delegation of Muslims, Gulf Christians and Arabs to visit the Vatican.

During the meeting, the “Patriarch” expressed his great interest in the developments taking place in the region and the world and showed his keenness to exert his utmost efforts for the prosperity and peace of mankind.

Sattam Al-Jarallah with Pope Francis

In an interview with the Arab Times, the “the head of the Vatican” and “successor of Peter the Apostle” said: “It cannot be said that I do not do anything for the sake of others, but rather that I do what I can, so my conscience is clear.” His Holiness added: “It is inconceivable for a person to remain a spectator while others wage wars and fuel divisions,” calling for every person to take the initiative to build bridges of human coexistence with the other within the framework of social friendship in its broadest sense.” Th e Pope stressed during the meeting, which was attended by a popular delegation, which included Muslims, Gulf Christians and Arabs the need for “a person to be authentic in any diverse cultural or religious milieu; because in this way he does not lose his identity, but without effort and naturally transfers his values that he adheres to and believes in.

On a parallel note, the attendees expressed their appreciation for the Pope’s efforts during the four years during which the region witnessed three important visits to each of the Emirates, Iraq and Bahrain, which culminated in the signing of Islamic- Christian agreements aimed at deepening human communication between the followers of the monotheistic religions, stressing that it reaped fruit in light of the stage It witnessed great tensions caused by extremist currents belonging to various religions.

The delegation members pose for a photo with His Holiness Pope Francis.

Sattam Ahmed Al-Jarallah talked about the nature of the relationship between the Gulf people of various sects and religions, and started his speech by saying, “We thank His Holiness the Pope for his Gulf tour, starting from Abu Dhabi, passing through Iraq, and ending with Bahrain.” He said: “It was an occasion to activate human brotherhood in terms of human dialogue between generations on the one hand, and between followers of different faiths on the other hand.

He added: “Today, youth in the Gulf constitute 63 percent of the peoples of the region, and for this they are the main element upon which the process of intellectual advancement and communication between nations will be undertaken. This generation is distinguished by its openness to different cultures, which means its ability to communicate with everyone on the basis of human brotherhood, and tolerance that Islam encouraged, and coexistence in the homelands. In his speech to the head of the Catholic Church, Sattam said: “The peoples of the Gulf have lived in human brotherhood since the early times thanks to Islamic teachings that urge non-discrimination between peoples, based on the hadith of the Prophet: O people, your Lord is one. There is no red over black and no black over red, except with piety. “The most honorable of you in the sight of God is the most pious of you.” He added: “Justice is one of the principles that Islam encourages, so there is no preference for one over another except with good treatment that stems from fear of God Almighty.”

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, with Sattam Al-Jarallah

Sattam went on to say: “Civilized communication between young people thwarts all attempts of extremism that different groups of followers of several religions seek to fuel, and thus constitutes a meeting point, a base for dialogue between the various human components, and enhances knowledge of the other.” In order to confirm the spirituality in which the people of the Arab Gulf region live, emanating from Islamic education that calls for nondiscrimination between peoples, the dialogue took place on the basis that this region has lived throughout its history in cooperation between the various followers of the sects , and to confirm the human dialogue that was launched during the signing of the Human Fraternity Agreement in the Emirates, and the appeals made by the head of the Catholic Church, the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayyib, and scholars from the Islamic sects whom the Pope met during his visit to Iraq, the Emirates and Bahrain. The delegation expressed their great appreciation for the language that Pope Francis spoke with regard to urging cooperation between the people of all religions in the region and combating extremism in any form, especially since we are all brothers in one humanity, expressing their gratitude for all that the Pope has done and is still doing for the general interest of humanity, whom they described as “the maker of peace and fraternal coexistence among all.”

The delegation members with Pope Francis. The shield offered to His Holiness Pope Francis from the Kuwaiti group

On the other hand, the Bahraini citizen Mario Mousallem, expressed his thanks for this opportunity to meet the Pope, and for his generous time that he welcome “us in your home. It is a unique honor to be here.” He said, “Your visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain highlighted brotherhood, inclusiveness, peace and unity embodied in the people of Bahrain and the peoples of the Gulf.”

Mousallem went on to say, “This is the essence of Bahrain and the Gulf countries, because even if we differ in our religions and celebrations, respect and acceptance of the other unite us, as your Holiness mentioned, so it is important that we remain authentic, and this is why we accept each other in Bahrain.” Issa Al-Numan also spoke and said: “The visit of Kuwaiti Muslims and Arab Christians to the Vatican, at the special invitation of His Holiness Pope Francis, must leave an imprint for its solemnity. It was his special invitation to us as Kuwaiti Muslim Christians and Arabs in which there is great appreciation from us and the peoples of the region.”

He said, “Kuwait is characterized by coexistence, and Article 35 of the Kuwaiti Constitution provides for the guarantee of absolute freedom of belief, and that the state grants religions the freedom to perform their religious rituals in accordance with established customs and traditions.” He added: “Joint human coexistence is the focus of our Christian life in Kuwait, as we represent an integral part of Kuwaiti society in which we live as Christians committed to our faith among our Muslim brothers. We experience coexistence daily, earnestly, preserving our faith, and practicing it through our prayers and rituals without any hindrance.” Jamal Numan said it is a joy, honor and pride for us, Kuwaiti Christians, to be in the thought and concern of His Holiness Pope Francis, who, as soon as he learned of the existence of Arab Christians citizens of the Arab Gulf countries, he hastened to invite us to the Vatican for a meeting between the father and the sons. He reassured us and advised us to embody coexistence in our countries with our Muslim brothers.

His Holiness also called on our Kuwaiti Muslim brothers, some of whom accompanied us to the Vatican City, so that the picture would be a reflection of the reality we live in Kuwait within a coexistence with our Muslim brothers, demonstrating the beauty of this social fabric that was preserved and protected by the Kuwait Constitution for all its citizens. “We had the blessing of meeting His Holiness Pope Francis,” said Layla Jamal a member of delegation from Kuwait during a visit to the Vatican upon invitation from the Pontiff.

She went on to say, “The impact of his words and his instructions on the essence of open fraternity allows us to acknowledge, appreciate and respect each person, beyond the scope of physical proximity, place of birth or place of residence. “His Holiness Pope Francis wished that he would be able to visit Kuwait, and we hope that those who are concerned would extend an invitation to His Holiness in order to further bridge the gap of coexistence and fraternity in our society,” Layla added. By Sattam Al-Jarallah Arab Times

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