Pope Francis thrills small Gulf Catholic community with big Mass in Bahrain

News Network
November 5, 2022

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Pope Francis said Mass for thousands of Catholics in Bahrain on Saturday, thrilling members of the small foreign Catholic community from around the Gulf and urging them to show kindness to their hosts, even if they feel sometimes badly treated.

The crowd of about 30,000 people that filled Bahrain's National Stadium was the second-largest gathering for a papal Mass on the Arabian Peninsula, following one that drew more than 100,000 in the United Arab Emirates in 2019.

"This is a miracle," said Mary Grace Fortes, 36, a Filipino who works at the reception of a hotel in Bahrain. "So important for us."

Like many Filipino women who work outside their country, Fortes is married and sends money back home to help support her family, including her husband and 16-year-old son.

Hundreds of Catholic foreign workers were bussed in over the 25-km (16 mile) King Fahd Causeway that links Bahrain with Saudi Arabia, where there are no churches and where Catholics cannot worship openly.

"The Bahrainis arranged everything perfectly for us," said Jos Chazoor, 53, who is from Kerala in India and works as a manager for a medical equipment company in Saudi Arabia.

Chazoor's 75-year-old mother was too overcome with emotion to respond to a reporter's questions just before the pope arrived in the packed stadium to an enthusiastic welcome by faithful waving yellow-and-white Vatican flags.

"She is too thrilled to talk," said Chazoor, who drives with his mother over the causeway from Saudi Arabia regularly to attend Mass in one of Bahrain's two churches, which provide pastoral care for the some 160,000 Catholics in Bahrain.

In his homily, Francis appeared to praise Bahrain's relatively open policy towards non-Muslims.

"This very land is a living image of coexistence in diversity, and indeed an image of our world, increasingly marked by the constant migration of peoples and by a pluralism of ideas, customs and traditions," he said.

Foreign workers, many of them from Asia, provide the backbone of Gulf economies, working in sectors such as construction, hospitality, transport and the oil and gas sector.

The International Labour Organisation says the Gulf's migrant workers have long faced problems including exploitation by recruitment agencies and employers, poor work conditions, limited access to justice and limited or no freedom of association.

Francis urged his listeners to be kind even to those native people in the Gulf area who do not treat them well, saying this was key to the Gospel message of loving your enemies.

He said they should always be "persevering in good even when evil is done to us, breaking the spiral of vengeance, disarming violence, demilitarizing the heart".

As Francis was driven on a open popemobile through the crowd on the stadium's pitch just before the start of the Mass, a speaker on the altar platform shouted "God bless the pope, God bless the royal family."

A Bahrain government spokesperson said 111 nationalities attended the Mass in the island state, where foreigners comprise about half of Bahrain's population of roughly 1.5 million.

The prayers of the faithful during the Mass were read in languages spoken by foreign workers including Tagalog, Swahili, Malayalam, Tamil and Konkani.

The Mass was attended by one of the sons of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and several government ministers. 
 

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News Network
May 22,2024

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Ireland, Norway and Spain have formally recognized the Palestinian state, angering the Israeli regime that recalled its ambassadors from the two European states.

“Today Ireland, Norway and Spain are announcing that we recognize the state of Palestine, each of us will undertake whatever national steps are necessary to give effect to that decision," Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said at a news conference in Dublin on Wednesday.

“I am confident that further countries will join us in taking this important step in the coming weeks.”

He added that the move was a statement of "unequivocal support" for the so-called two-state solution, which he described as "the only credible path to peace and security."

Shortly after Harris's statement, his Spanish counterpart Pedro Sanchez and Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said both countries will recognize the Palestine state from May 28.

Sanchez said it is clear is that “[Israeli] prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not have a project of peace for Palestine.”

Store, for his part, noted that there cannot be peace in the West Asia region if there is no recognition.

"Norway’s formal recognition of Palestine as a state will enter into force on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. A number of other like-minded European countries will also formally recognize Palestine on that same date. These countries will be making their own announcements," added a statement by the Norwegian prime minister.

Palestine welcomes recognition 

Meanwhile, secretary general of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Hussein al-Sheikh, welcomed the decision by Norway, Spain and Ireland to recognize the state of Palestine, calling it a “historical moment.”

“Historical moments in which the free world triumphs for truth and justice after long decades of Palestinian national struggle, suffering, pain, occupation, racism, murder, oppression, abuse and destruction to which the people of Palestine were subjected to,” he said in a post on social media platform X, describing the recognition as a path to stability, security and peace.

“We thank the countries of the world that have recognized and will recognize the independent State of Palestine. We affirm that this is the path to stability, security and peace in the region.”

In reaction, Israeli authorities have ordered the regime’s ambassadors from Ireland and Norway to immediately return, and said they would do the same for Spain.

The Spanish prime minister has been one of the most outspoken European leaders when it comes to criticism of the Israeli regime’s genocidal war on Gaza. He has also repeatedly asserted that the so-called two-state solution remains the only answer to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This comes amid Israel's brutal war on Gaza, which was launched on October 7 after Palestinian resistance groups carried out a surprise retaliatory operation into the occupied territories.

Concomitantly with the war, the regime has been enforcing a near-total siege on the coastal territory, which has reduced the flow of foodstuffs, medicine, electricity, and water into the Palestinian territory into a trickle.

So far during the military onslaught, the regime has killed at least 35,456 Gazans, most of them women, children, and adolescents. Another 79,476 Palestinians have sustained injuries as well.

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News Network
May 17,2024

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Hamas says the Israeli regime’s bombing of the Gaza Strip, which is enduring a genocidal Israeli war, has killed 70 percent of the Zionist captives, who have been held by the Palestinian resistance movement since an October operation.

Khalil al-Hayya, deputy chief of Hamas’ Political Bureau, announced the information in an interview with Lebanon’s al-Manar television network on Thursday.

“The Zionist enemy wants to recover the remaining captives by force, killing them by bombing,” he said.

Around 250 people were taken captive on October 7 last year during Al-Aqsa Storm, a retaliatory operation by Gaza’s resistance groups.

At least 35,272 Palestinians have died in an Israeli war of genocide that began following the operation.

Hamas released 105 of the captives during a week-long truce in late November.

Hamas recently agreed to another truce proposal enabling cessation of the Israeli aggression and release of the rest of the captives. The Israeli regime, however, rejected the proposal.

The Hamas’ official said, “The latest proposal presented to us comes very close to our demands, but the enemy has not respected the proposal or the mediators.”

Al-Hayya reiterated the movement’s demands, saying any potential truce agreement had to mandate a complete and comprehensive cessation of the Israeli aggression, withdrawal of all Israeli forces from Gaza, and then a captive exchange deal.

‘Victory is our ally’

The Hamas’ official pointed to the Israeli regime’s failure to realize its war goals, including defeating the resistance.

“After eight months of aggression, the enemy has failed to eradicate the resistance in Gaza despite all the actions of the occupation,” he said.

“The resistance has rebuilt itself and can adapt its capabilities to face the occupation,” the official said, asserting, “The resistance is capable of enduring for many months and will continue to defend its people as long as the battle is ongoing.”

“The resistance has the ability to continue because it is right, and victory is our ally, while the enemy will face defeat.”

Thanking regional resistance

Elsewhere in his remarks, al-Hayya expressed gratitude towards the regional resistance groups for the pro-Palestinian operations that they have been carrying out against Israeli targets and those associated with the occupying regime.

“The fronts in Yemen, Lebanon, and Iraq support Gaza and link the cessation of [their] operations to the end of aggression on Gaza,” he said.

“When we meet with the resistance forces in the region, we affirm that the battle is one.”

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News Network
May 20,2024

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Following the tragic death of Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and his entourage in a helicopter crash in northwestern Iran, the first vice president has taken charge as the interim president.

Iranian Constitution states that the first vice president takes over temporarily in the event of the death or major illness of the incumbent president for a period of 50 days.

Mohammad Mokhber, who served as President Raeisi’s first deputy since 2021, has taken over as the acting president for 50 days, in line with the constitutional requirement.

Holding a PhD in international law, Mokhber was born in the city of Dezful in the southern province of Khuzestan in 1955. He rose through the ranks to assume important social and political roles.

Mokhber, a vastly experienced executive manager who was chosen by Raeisi as his first vice president following the historic presidential elections in 2021, has impressed all and sundry with his work.

Raeisi won the mandate with a landslide election win in 2021, outshining all his key competitors, some of whom withdrew their applications and supported his bid.

Due to Mokhber’s years of experience in top managerial roles, especially as the president of the Execution of Imam Khomeini's Order (EIKO), also known as Setad, he was an automatic choice as Raeisi’s executive deputy.

Mokhber served as the head of Setad for nearly 14 years between 2007 and 2021. During this long period, his passion for social welfare, hard work and commitment to the revolutionary cause was something that made him a popular figure.

Among his works in Setad included the establishment of the Barakat Foundation, the Ehsan Foundation, and the production of the first Iranian COVID-19 vaccine, known as CONIRAN BAREKAT.

Before Setad, he served as the chairman of the board at Sina Bank, as well as the governor of southern Iran’s Khuzestan province. In both roles, he excelled.

Due to his work with Setad, he was placed on a sanctions list by the European Union in July 2010 and was taken off the list two years later.

Since 2021, he has been tirelessly working to implement social welfare schemes of the Raeisi government, working closely with people like the president himself.

Mokhber is likely to be one of the candidates when the new elections are held after 50 days.

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