Bahrain, Nov 24: It was a privilege for the Apostolic Carmel sisters, who manage the Sacred Heart School, the only Catholic School at Isa Town, Kingdom of Bahrain, to welcome Pope Francis during his visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain.
On November 5, hundreds of young and excited students welcomed Pope Francis during his special visit to Sacred Heart School at the ‘Meeting with the Youth’ programme. The Holy Father was accompanied by the minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs and head of the honor mission, minister Nawaaf Al Maawda. The Pope was welcomed by the principal of the school, Sr Roselyn Thomas AC, the most treasured and most revered guest the school has ever witnessed, in the presence of Sr Maria Nirmalini AC, the superior general, the cheering students and teachers. Students of various nationalities greeted him in their native languages.
The event was a part of the Pope’s four-day apostolic journey to the Kingdom of Bahrain at the invitation of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. In her speech, the principal hailed King Hamad and Pope Francis for their efforts to build bridges and roads to peaceful coexistence and religious freedom to bring about a world of peace.
“The Sacred Heart School is a miniature symbol of peaceful coexistence and culture of care having students and staff hailing from 29 different nationalities, cultures, languages and religious backgrounds," she said. Following her speech, the students performed a traditional Bahraini dance; the school choir sang three songs and a few other students from different nationalities offered invocations in their native languages.
At the Meeting of the Youth, approximately 800 students, from different schools, both private and public schools in Bahrain, of different nationalities and faiths were brought together. The Catechism students of the Manama and Awali church too were included at this colourful, elegantly organized ‘Meeting with the Youth Programme’ making it a veritable feast and an occasion for the youth to meet and interact with Pope Francis.
The Holy Father addressed the youth, and his message had three small invitations for the Youth to support and encourage them to bring about peace amongst people of goodwill and the world at large.
To begin with, referring to Sr Roselyn’s speech, he invited them to embrace the culture of care, and help the seed of fraternity to grow. He asked the youth to make a positive mark by caring for the community, the world around them, developing an inner attitude of empathy, which is the start of something new.
Pope Francis then affirmed the need to spread fraternity by being champions of the same. Referring to Abdullah’s (a former tudent who hailed the values he learnt in this Catholic School) speech, he also advised them to continue to sow the seeds of fraternity, because only in fraternity the world will have a future. The Pope urged the youth to learn to travel within themselves as well, to expand their inner borders, so that prejudices against others can vanish, margins of distrust can narrow, fences of fear can be torn down, and fraternal friendship can blossom.
He offered the third invitation: accept the challenge of making decisions in life. He said, “You know from everyday experience there is no such a thing as a life without challenges. So how do you prepare, how do you develop your decision-making ability, your creativity, your courage and your tenacity? How do you sharpen your inner gaze, learn to judge situations, and grasp what is important? It requires learning how to weigh your options and take the right direction.”
In reference to the questions by another student, Merina, he stated, “I too was an adolescent like you, like everyone else, and my life was that of a normal young person”. He continued, adolescence is a process, that period in our growth when we begin to face the complexity of life and confront certain challenges for the first time. ‘’Well, my advice is to press forward without fear, but never go it alone! God never leaves you alone; He waits for you to ask Him to give you a hand. He accompanies and guides us, not by powerful signs and miracles, but by speaking gently through our thoughts and feelings. Always have the guidance of God.”
To conclude, the Pope stated, ‘’Friends, making decisions is not something we do alone. So let me say one last thing to you. Before you go to the Internet for advice, always seek out good counselors in life, wise and reliable people who can guide and help you. I am thinking of not only parents and teachers, but also of the elderly, your grandparents, and a good spiritual guide. Each of us needs to be accompanied on the road of life.”
He also stated that the church wants the young people, so that the world can be renewed and will explore new paths.Words are not enough: there is need for concrete gestures carried out on daily basis. He also asked the youth not to lose courage to dream big and live life to the full. Adopt the culture of care and spread it. Become champions of fraternity. Face life’s challenges by letting yourselves be guided by God’s faithful creativity and by good counsellors.
The Pope affirmed that the youth are the backbone of the community as they are the promising dreamers possessing incredible potential that could be transformed into a tangible accomplishment.
The meeting encompassed everything that happened in the past two days. It was a beautiful conclusion to the work of the king of Kingdom of Bahrain in general, its citizens as well as their welcoming hearts and all the hard work in promoting the youth and education. For the sisters of the Apostolic Carmel, namely, Sr Maria Nirmalini, superior general, the sisters at Sacred Heart School, Bahrain and Carmel School, Kuwait, it was also a unique privilege and a blessing to have a delightful person to person and an informal interaction with the Pope as he bade us goodbye.
Below is the letter from the Pope to the principal after his return to Rome: