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Pope Bahrain 1.JPG
World News

Pope visit a dream come true for woman whose father helped build Bahrain church

by Reuters Journalist

When Pope Francis visits Bahrain this week, it will be a dream come true for many Christians in the Gulf Arab country, but especially for Najla Uchi, whose father helped build the first Roman Catholic church in the island state.

Lighting a candle at her home altar lined with religious icons, 78-year-old Najla Uchi said she had been saying a daily prayer for Pope Francis, who is due to arrive on Thursday.

"Many people didn't even dream that they could see the pope here," she told Reuters. "When I go to church, they don't believe it, they are all getting excited."

Uchi's father Salman was the main contractor for the Sacred Heart Church, built on a plot of land gifted by the ruling emir. Its bells first rang on Christmas eve 1939, according to its website.

Her father came to Bahrain from Iraq and was later granted Bahraini citizenship. Uchi was born in Bahrain and is a citizen.

Bahrain is about 70% Muslim and, unlike Saudi Arabia, allows the small Christian community - made up mostly of foreign workers - to practice their faith publicly in the two churches there.

In the Sacred Heart Church yard, people pose for pictures in front of posters of Pope Francis.

"I am happy to be there (church) - not only because of my father, everything is wonderful there...we are all like one family," Uchi said.

During his four-day visit, the pontiff will attend the 'Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and West for Human Coexistence', and is expected to hold mass.

In 2019, Pope Francis visited Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, the first pontiff to visit the Arabian peninsula and say a Mass there.

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