Thousands pack Bahrain national stadium for pope’s main Mass to be held Monday
By The Associated Press
TUAYBAY, Egypt (AP) — A record number of people are expected to pack the main stadium in the Manama port city of Bahrain for Pope Francis to give his main mass Monday, the organizers said on Thursday.
Bahrain’s Prince Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa will preside over the mass in a ceremony with the Catholic archbishop of Bahrain and the rest of the world standing alongside him. The first mass to be led by a non-cardinal pope since the end of the Vatican’s papal rule in 1870 will be the last public event before Francis flies to Rome on May 28, where he will lead the final mass scheduled after his four-year term starts Wednesday.
The stadium will be filled again next week when Bahrain’s parliament is expected to elect a new president following the country’s long-standing political unrest and an unprecedented five-month boycott of parliament.
About 20,000 people are expected to come to the stadium and about 7,000 others are expected to show up at a hotel that’s been converted into a pop star hotel for people to stay in ahead of the Pope’s arrival.
Pope Francis and the faithful at a mass in the piazza della Madonna in the ancient, picturesque city of Assisi – in central Italy – on Sunday, March 15, 2018. In a traditional gesture of friendship, Francis kissed his hand on a bible that hung in the main altar, a gesture that surprised and delighted some worshippers. (AP Photo/Riccardo Francart)
Cardinal Luis Ladaria, a leading Vatican diplomat and the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said at the end of the mass that even a single day of public resistance against the Pope’s election would “wipe out the hope for change” for the young and their families in the Middle East.
The Pope has no public schedule from Monday onwards, and he won’t likely appear on state TV to address the nation until Wednesday when he gives his first remarks to a joint session of the parliament, but those present Sunday said he was well received by the faithful.
Hundreds of thousands of people marched through the streets of Bahrain on Monday, demanding that the government end the