VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis will in November visit Bahrain, home to the biggest Catholic church in the Arabian peninsula, the Vatican said on Wednesday.
Francis, 85, will be the first pope ever to visit the majority-Muslim Persian Gulf country, according to Vatican News.
He has been under doctor’s orders to slow down, after suffering from a painful knee that has forced him to use a wheelchair and cancel some events.
Francis will visit the country’s capital Manama and the city of Awali during the November 3-6 trip and attend the “Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and West for Human Coexistence.”
Further details of the visit — the 39th international trip of Francis’ papacy — will be released at a later date.
But the Argentine-born pontiff is likely to visit the cavernous Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia in Awali, which opened its doors last year.
The modern-style church lies about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from a large mosque and a stone’s throw from an oil well, in the south of the state.
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 then.
The trip comes on the back of another journey to a Muslim-majority country, Kazakhstan, which the pope visited earlier this month.