Pope asks young people to seek advice beyond Google

MANAMA, Bahrain (HPD) — Pope Francis changed course Saturday on his visit to Bahrain to minister to the Gulf Catholic community, leading an outdoor Mass before meeting with young people to give them some fatherly advice: Don’t just Google answers to your crucial decisions, he told them. Instead, find a parent, teacher, or grandparent who can offer guidance.

After focusing on Catholic-Muslim relations for the first two days of his four-day visit to the tiny kingdom, Francis on Saturday was able to appreciate the multi-ethnic diversity of the Gulf region’s Catholic community. It is mainly made up of migrant workers from South Asia who often leave their families behind to work in construction, oil drilling, domestic and service industries.

Some 30,000 people, some from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Gulf countries, packed Bahrain’s national stadium for Francis’ mass. The English liturgy was clearly geared towards South Asian migrant workers, who are the majority of Catholics in the area, with prayers in Malay, Tagalog and Tamil. In addition, a priest translated into English the homily that the pope delivered in his native Spanish.

“It’s a great honor,” said Bijoy Joseph, an Indian who lives in Saudi Arabia and attended the Eucharist. “For us it is like a blessing to be part of the mass of our Holy Father in Bahrain.”

Francis is the first pope in history to visit the island kingdom, located off the Saudi coast. The main purpose of his trip was to participate in a government-sponsored interfaith conference to promote dialogue between Catholics and Muslims. But in the last two days of his stay, he focused on caring for the Catholic community, a minority in the nation of around 1.5 million inhabitants.

In his homily, Francis urged them to do good and turn the other cheek “even when we receive evil.”

“There will be frictions, moments of tension, conflicts, different points of view, but whoever follows the Prince of Peace must always seek peace. And you can’t restore peace if you answer an offensive word with an even worse word,” he said.

“No, it is necessary to deactivate, to break the chain of evil, to break the spiral of violence, to stop harboring grudges, to stop complaining and feeling sorry for oneself,” the pontiff added.

After mass, Francis met with hundreds of young people at the Sacred Heart school, which dates back to the 1940s and is affiliated with the church of the same name, the first built on the gulf.

The school has more than 1,200 students and teachers from 29 different nationalities and a variety of religious groups, including Muslims who study alongside Christians.

Teenage women in saris danced for him, alumni offered testimonials and students offered words of encouragement or wished him well in more than a dozen languages.

Francis urged them to forge a future in which such friendly interreligious relations remain the norm. And then he offered some personal advice, saying that he too was a teenager and never made a big decision alone.

“Before looking for advice on the Internet, always look for good advisors in life, wise and trustworthy people who can guide and help you,” he said, listing parents, grandparents or a spiritual guide.

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The Associated Press’ religious coverage is supported through a partnership with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The HPD is solely responsible for content.

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