WAITING FOR THE POPE: THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN BAHRAIN
Christianity spread to Bahrain during the 3rd or 4th century AD: according to historical sources, Nestorians were already well established in the archipelago and on the Arab Gulf shore by the early 5th century. By the beginning of the 7th century AD, Bahrain was home to two of the five Nestorian episcopal sees that existed on the Arab shore of the Gulf. It is not certain when the two sees were dissolved, although records show that they survived until at least 835 AD. As evidence of these historical roots, ancient foundations of a Nestorian monastery have been discovered in Samaheej, a village on the island of Muharraq. Another village on the same island, known by the toponym Al Dair, may have housed another monastery, since its name traces the Aramaic term for "cloister".
Currently Christians, including all the different denominations, amount to about 10 percent of the total population residing in Bahrain. The Catholic Church numbers several tens of thousands of faithful in the country. As in the rest of the Arabian Peninsula, the Catholic community in Bahrain is almost entirely made up of migrants: since the early 1990s, it has grown very rapidly thanks to the large migratory flows of workers coming to the Gulf in search of employment.
Manama, the capital of Bahrain, is currently the headquarters of the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia, the local circumscription of the Catholic Church that was erected by Decree of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples on May 31, 2011, reorganizing the jurisdiction of the territories previously included in the Apostolic Vicariate of Kuwait and the Apostolic Vicariate of Arabia. The first Apostolic Vicar of Northern Arabia was until 2020 the late Msgr. Camillo Ballin, MCCJ. Currently, the Vicariate is headed by an Apostolic Administrator, H.E. Msgr. Paul Hinder, OFMCap, former Apostolic Vicar of South Arabia.
The Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia, together with that of Southern Arabia, has been placed under the protection of the Virgin Mary, with the title Our Lady of Arabia. An event of special significance for the local Church was, on December 10, 2021, the consecration of the new Catholic Cathedral in Awali, dedicated precisely to Our Lady of Arabia. The foundation stone of the new Cathedral, blessed at the beginning of construction on May 31, 2014, came from St. Peter's Basilica in Rome as a gift from the Holy Father. This brick, which had been placed in the Holy Door of St. Peter's Papal Basilica in the Vatican at the end of the Extraordinary Holy Year of Redemption 1983-1984, was taken out at the opening of the same Door by Holy Father John Paul II at the beginning of the Great Jubilee of 2000. It was, then, offered to the Apostolic Vicariate of North Arabia as a sign of union with the Church of Rome and as a participation in the spiritual benefits of the Jubilee Year. The land for the Cathedral was donated by His Majesty the King of Bahrain.