Monday, October 31, 2022

CW Investigates : Operation Caimiléireacht (1)

A new CW Investigation has begun : Operation Caimiléireacht or Operation Corruption....and here is the list of those concerned....

An Garda Síochána (specific members thereof)

Church of Ireland Diocese of Killaloe : (now : United Diocese of Tuam, Limerick & Killaloe) : (specific members thereof)

Clare County Council (specific members thereof)

Department of the Taoiseach (specific members thereof)

General Register Office (of Births, Marriages & Deaths) : Republic Of Ireland : (specific members thereof)

Mid-Western Health Board (now HSE West) : (specific members thereof)

Roman Catholic Diocese of Killaloe : (specific members thereof)

Solicitor Office (located in Clare) : (specific names will be provided)

* Let it be noted that this investigation

- is the result of many years work;

- has been carried out with external assistance (i.e. credible and accredited anti-corruption organisations outside of Ireland and UK);

- involves reams of paperwork (apologies to the rain-forests) and also audio -recordings, as well as sworn testimonies from those who not only felt but in effect knew wrongs were being done...

Some (if not many) people concerned (in above mentioned organisations) will now have every reason to worry as 

- records they had and thought destroyed are in fact not so; 

- notes they thought were non-existant in actual fact do exist; 

- recordings they thought they had destroyed or 'lost' have been recovered....and 

- much more than originally and initially thought to have existed actually does, as some decent and honest people in the above organisations were disgusted and concerned about the behaviour of those who WILL be named.

ALL information has been legally verified etc....

ALL names mentioned will find that the evidence to back up what is claimed will be totality, and

If any of such persons and/or organisations wish to be it...we are more than ready for you all...singularly and collectively

Watch this space....

CW Investigates : Operations Ainmhian & Easpag

As we wind down for the month of October, and prepare for November and Advent, now is the time to bring you all up to date with these investigations.

Operation Ainmhian : this investigation is ongoing and has now moved totally out of our investigative control, but not out of our interest, and indeed, in time to come, we will be given first refusal on publishing it - and that time is nearer than some would wish it to be.

Operation Easpag : it should be noted that despite the more recent attempts (again) by the cleric involved in this investigation, we will NOT back away from this investigation, and indeed, we wish to make the following public statement directly to this cleric

'In recent days, we are only too well aware of your concerted attempts to interfere with this investigation, and indeed with another investigation. 

As you requested a meeting with us and our legal team, our solicitor requested certain information from you, which, to date you have failed to provide to us - either directly or through our solicitor.

We are also aware that you, and others who have claimed, and continue to claim, to be supporters of you, have made enquiries of members of the CW team in an attempt to discredit both the members and the investigations.

Let us assure, and indeed re-assure you and your supporters, that this is in effect an exercise in futility, and irrespective of what you may believe to be credible allegations against us, at least do us and others the service of having irrefutable and credible evidence to back up any allegations you may believe you have.

In relation to such, let us further advise you that we have verified any and ALL claims against YOU!!

We are only awaiting legal clearance to begin publishing all 100+ pages of what we have, and there will be no warning when we will just appear!!

All of us here are tired of you, your hypocritical behaviour and public rants, your ill-informed and non-evidential allegations for some time now, and it is only a matter of time before you are found out, and we will be only too happy to oblige.

We pride ourselves in CW on being fair, honest and open in all our dealings, and unlike others, we will only publish what we can stand over.

We advise you, dear cleric, that if you attempt to yet again interfere, undermine or otherwise any and/or all of our investigations, then we will unleash what we have and take whatever consequences may come our way.

That is not a threat....that is a promise!!'

Cardinal Zen back in court for Hong Kong trial

 Cardinal Zen's trial reopens in Hong Kong days after Vatican-China deal  renewal | Catholic News Agency

Hong Kong’s outspoken Cardinal Joseph Zen along with five activists have appeared in court after their trial resumed to hear closing arguments over their alleged failure to register a now-defunct humanitarian fund for pro-democracy protesters.

Cardinal Zen, 90, former bishop of Hong Kong and one of Asia’s most senior Catholic clerics, attended the hearing at the West Kowloon Magistrate’s Court on Oct. 26, reported Hong Kong Free Press.

His co-defendants are Barrister Margaret Ng, singer-activist Denise Ho, former legislator Cyd Ho, scholar Hui Po-Keung, and Sze Ching-wee.

The six former trustees face the charge of not properly registering the "612 Humanitarian Relief Fund" under the Societies Ordinance, a British colonial-era law from 1911.

Rejecting the defence's claim that the registration requirement contravened freedom of association protected under the Basic Law the prosecution countered with the need for greater control of the fund and its activities.

“Many societies organise public fundraising and accept donations. The substantial donations received by the 612 Fund should really be regulated,” said lead prosecutor Anthony Chau.

He added that the registration requirement achieved a “reasonable balance” between the protection of social interests and the encroachment of personal rights.

The prosecution also stated that the requirement to register the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund as a local society “did not infringe upon freedom of association.”

“If the society was not exempted, then it would be covered by the ordinance,” he said.

Chau also pointed out that the trustees had sufficient time to prepare the necessary documents and register their society.

He said that the society had “sufficient time to prepare the information needed for the registration as the application deadline was one month after it was founded.”

He also added that the maximum penalty for first-time offenders was a fine of HK$10,000 (US$ 1,274) only, which was “not harsh.”

The defence counsel had presented various other national and international cases of similar nature which were rejected by the prosecution.

Chau said that they were “not comparable” to the present case.

He added that the case background and nature, the ordinances involved, the legislative intent of the ordinances and the points of contention were all “starkly different.”

He also urged the court to “adopt a broad definition and interpret the law with the flexibility to reflect the legislative intent of maintaining law and order,” during his closing argument.

The trial was adjourned until Oct 31 for the court to hear closing arguments from the defence.

Cardinal Zen and the other five were initially accused of “colluding with foreign forces” but are not yet charged with a national security offence, which can carry a sentence of life in prison.

Chau also argued that the funds set up by Cardinal Zen and the co-defendants did not belong to any of the 16 groups listed in a schedule to which the Societies Ordinance did not apply.

The groups according to the ordinance are segregated based on language, sports, cultural activities, industrial professions, trades, and religious or charitable societies.

The prosecution estimated that the fund had more than HK$450 million in total deposits and had spent more than HK$446 million.

Rights activists say the case against Cardinal Zen and his co-defendants is an example of Beijing’s strategy to suppress dissent through the sweeping National Security Law and the provisions of other colonial legislations.

They are among hundreds of pro-democracy supporters and politicians either jailed or facing prosecution in the courts as China tightens its grip on the former British colony that used to enjoy a higher degree of autonomy and basic freedoms including independent judiciary and legislature under “one country two systems” framework.

Earlier on Oct 25, Jimmy Lai, a Catholic media tycoon and the founder of now-defunct pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper and chief of its parent company, Next Digital, was found guilty of fraud in court.

Renewing a dodgy deal with the devil (Op-Ed Contribution)

 Chinese priests do not need to register with government, Vatican says |  Catholic News Agency

The decision by the Vatican to announce the renewal of its secret agreement with Beijing on the Feast of St. John Paul II just over a week ago was perhaps the biggest insult of all. 

It was almost as if the proponents of the dodgy deal wanted to repudiate the great pontiff who had played such a central role in the fight against communism and made such a significant contribution to the fall of the Soviet Union. 

In contrast to his legacy, the current Vatican seems intent on kowtowing to and becoming a tool of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime in Beijing.

The timing of the renewal could not have been worse. It coincided with the CCP’s 20th Party Congress, which gave Xi Jinping an unprecedented third term and sealed his cult-like grip on the country. And in a shocking scene, his predecessor as General Secretary of the CCP and President of China, Hu Jintao, was dragged out of the Congress in full view of the cameras and under Xi’s impassive watchful gaze.

The Vatican’s deal was also renewed exactly one week after the Chinese Consul-General in Manchester was filmed, along with some of his colleagues from the consulate, assaulting peaceful Hong Kong protesters on the street outside. 

One man, Bob Chan, was dragged into the consulate, where the Consul General, Zheng Xiyuan, himself pulled his hair, while another thug poked his fingers into Chan’s eyes and others beat him severely. 

Zheng later admitted his actions in a television interview, claiming it was his “duty” to pull the protester’s hair in retribution for “insulting” Xi Jinping. When I met Chan three days later he was still seriously bruised and unable to sit down without severe pain.

And in the biggest betrayal of all, the Vatican has renewed this agreement just as one of the Church’s most senior and most respected cardinals, the 90-year-old Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong Joseph Zen, goes on trial, and as prominent Hong Kong Catholic Jimmy Lai, who has already spent two years in prison, faces multiple court cases and the prospect of many more years behind bars.

Yet Pope Francis refused to meet Cardinal Zen last time he visited Rome two years ago, the Vatican’s reaction to his arrest earlier this year was, to put it politely, limp and lackluster, and not a word has been said by the Vatican about Lai’s plight.

If the details of the agreement were transparent and the gains more obvious, perhaps some of the Vatican’s compromises might be more understandable. But this deal, first agreed by the Vatican and China four years ago, has now been renewed for the second time with seemingly no scrutiny, review or transparency — and far from improving conditions for the Church in China, it has resulted in worsening repression and persecution.

The only detail we know about the agreement itself is that it relates to the appointment of Catholic bishops in China and gives the CCP a say in picking them. Yet so far only six new bishops have been appointed, according to the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, leaving at least 40 vacancies to fill. Many underground bishops and priests remain in prison or under house arrest.

A precondition — both for the original agreement and for its renewal — ought to have been the release of clergy in prison, but it does not appear that the Vatican made that demand, or if it did it failed to secure it. Indeed, the Vatican insisted that some underground bishops who had been courageously loyal to Rome for decades stand down in favor of Beijing’s preferred candidates.

The only winners from this deal are Xi Jinping and the CCP. Not only have they strengthened the repression of the Church in China, but they have also extended their control into the heart of the Vatican itself. Pope Francis is not usually a pontiff who shies away from speaking about injustice. 

Typically, every Sunday when he prays the Angelus from his window above St. Peter’s Square in Rome, and on plenty of other occasions too, he speaks about one issue of injustice, persecution or conflict or another. 

To his great credit, he has spoken out several times against the repression in Myanmar as a whole and the genocide of the Rohingyas in particular, as well as Yemen, Syria, and the persecution of Christians and Yazidis in the Middle East.

The one part of the world about which he has been conspicuously silent is China. Whether it is the genocide of the Uyghurs, atrocities in Tibet, the dismantling of Hong Kong’s freedoms in violation of an international treaty, the crackdown on civil society, lawyers, bloggers and dissidents throughout China, the threats to Taiwan or the persecution of Christians in China, Pope Francis has said almost nothing. It appears that Beijing has bought the Pope’s silence.

Yet despite the Vatican’s sell-out, it has received nothing in return. Pope Francis insists on the pursuit of dialogue, naively thinking he can build a relationship with Xi Jinping of the kind his 16th-century Jesuit inspiration, Matteo Ricci, had with the Chinese imperial court. But Xi rebuffed the pope’s invitation to meet when they were both in Kazakhstan last month.

Over the past decade, Xi’s regime has intensified the crackdown on Christians, leading to the worst persecution in China since the Cultural Revolution. Hundreds of churches have been destroyed, and thousands of crosses torn down. 

In state-controlled official churches, portraits of Xi and CCP propaganda banners are required to be on display alongside — or even instead of — religious statues and images. Surveillance cameras record every worshipper in attendance, and under-18s are banned from places of worship. The Vatican’s deal with the CCP has not changed the persecution, it has helped facilitate it.

Among fellow Catholics whom I talk to, I have yet to find one who enthusiastically supports or defends the Vatican’s deal with China, and none who can really explain it.  It is baffling that the Vatican has sold out to Beijing, and has made no attempt to listen to critics of its approach. 

The time has come for Catholics — clergy and laity — around the world to cry out in very large numbers to Pope Francis on behalf of the persecuted millions suffering at the hands of the CCP, and demand to be heard.

The Vatican should, even at this very late stage, completely review its approach. It should start by lifting the veil on the text of the agreement, and publishing it in full so that we can all see what is in it. 

It should then begin a dialogue, not with Beijing but with Catholics, in China and around the world, as well as with representatives of other Christians in China, the Uyghurs, Tibetans, the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and Taiwan (with whom the Holy See is still one of the few states to maintain diplomatic relations).

At the very least, if Pope Francis is to recover the moral authority of the papacy on these issues, he must end his silence on the CCP’s atrocities. Even if it is too late to change the deal for now, until it is up for renewal again, it is never too late to speak out against evil and injustice. 

Doing a deal with the devil is bad enough, but as the old saying goes, if you are going to dine with the devil, you should use a very long spoon. 

Being complicit with the devil’s schemes, spreading the devil’s lies and staying silent in the face of the devil’s crimes is too high a price for the Vatican to pay.

God in Number 10

 God In Number 10 - Mark Vickers - SPCK Publishing

A book exploring the personal beliefs and faith - or lack of it - of the twentieth-century UK Prime Ministers was launched last week. Mike Kane MP hosted a reception in the Churchill Room in the Houses of Parliament for the publication of God in Number 10 by Fr Mark Vickers, Parish Priest of the Holy Ghost and St Stephen in Shepherds Bush.

Among the guests were Archbishop George Stack, Bishop John Sherrington, Rev Tricia Hillas, the Speaker's Chaplain, Canon Pat Browne, Roman Catholic Duty Priest to Parliament and Mgr John Armitage, Master of the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom. Fr Marcus Holden, Fr Richard Whinder and Fr Nicholas Schofield - to whom the book is dedicated - also attended.

Fr Vickers' book casts a fascinating new perspective on the holders of the highest political office in the realm. While there are biographies aplenty of most of the 18 men and two women who have taken up residence behind the famous black door, it is notable that many of these works fail to examine an important - sometimes the most important - aspect of the life of their subject. God in Number 10 rectifies this omission, offering intriguing insights into Margaret Thatcher's legendary 'Sermon on the Mound', Tony Blair's perception of Jesus as a modernizer, Arthur Balfour's recourse to spiritualism, Stanley Baldwin's mystical experiences, and Winston Churchill's involvement with astrology. The book considers the role of religion generally in the political classes of the period, the reasons for the declining influence of faith in the public forum, and the relationship between Church and State.

The families of HH Asquith, Bonar Law, Ramsay MacDonald, Neville Chamberlain, Harold Macmillan, Alec Douglas-Home and Harold Wilson have all expressed their support for God in Number 10 and, where able, helped in the research, while John Major has assisted fully.

Commenting on the book Sir Anthony Seldon, Biographer of the Prime Ministers said: "Faith defined the reigns of many of our kings and queens. The faith of the Prime Ministers, however, has been largely overlooked by historians. This carefully researched and well-written study reveals the religious faith of our Prime Ministers, or lack of it, in vivid colours. Prepare to be shocked and surprised as the author lays bare their souls."

Nigel Parker, director of the Catholic Union, who attended the launch said: "In the 21st century we have had our first Catholic Prime Minister (in Canon Law terms) and now have our first Hindu PM. On leaving Parliament, a group of us ran into Keir Starmer and I took the opportunity to show him the book I had just bought (inscribed "to all at the Catholic Union"). Only God knows whether the time is now approaching for our first avowedly atheist Prime Minister. Of course, we continue to pray for the incumbent of Number 10, regardless of their personal beliefs."

God in Number 10 is published by SPCK. 

For more information and to order copies see:

Couples who 'slide' into marriage more likely to divorce

 Marriage Foundation - Photos | Facebook

Couples who 'slide into marriage', because of family pressure are up to 50 per cent likely to divorce than those who marry for love, finds a major new study from Marriage Foundation.

The study, Attitudes towards marriage and commitment looked at 2000 adults who had ever married. We then focussed on a smaller cohort of 905 couples who married for the first time after the year 2000 in the era of online dating. They were asked how much they agreed or disagreed with each of twelve reasons for why they might have got married.

Those who said they "felt they had to marry due to family pressure" - i.e. due to social pressure - had a significantly higher probability of divorce at just 34 per cent compared to 23 per cent of couples who did not identify these reasons. Put another way, couples who tied the knot due to family pressure were 50 per cent more likely to split up.

Those who agreed that their marriage "just kind of happened" - i.e. 'slide' into it - had a 29 per cent probability of divorce over the duration of the study compared to 22 per cent of those who disagreed.

Both of these findings take into account gender, age at marriage, occupation, where the couple met, whether they had done some form of marriage preparation or signed a prenup, how much their wedding cost, how many guests they had, and whether one of them earned more than the other or was better educated than the other.

In contrast, those who were more intentional about their marriage, who agreed that they married "in order to build our life together" - i.e. as the cornerstone of life together - were more likely to stay together. They divorced at an overall rate of just 24 per cent compared to 37 per cent among those who did not agree. Even after taking background into account, these couples were still significantly more likely to stay together, with a 23 per cent probability of divorce compared to 33 per cent for those who disagreed.

The report says: "Two other factors were also associated with a significant change in divorce risk but only over specific durations of marriage. Couples who 'wanted to declare our commitment and plan to each other' - i.e. signal their commitment - were less likely to divorce during the first seven years, with a raw divorce rate of 11 per cent versus 21 per cent.

"Couples who agreed that it's 'important that our children had parents who were married' - i.e. marry 'for the sake of the children' - were less likely to divorce during the first three years (with a raw divorce rate of 2 per cent versus 9 per cent) the first seven years (8 per cent vs 21 per cent) and the first ten years (13 per cent vs 26 per cent)."

Harry Benson, Marriage Foundation's Research Director commented: "What this research shows conclusively is that the reasons why people get married has a significant material impact to whether they stay together. While this might seem obvious, this has never been quantified. But the message is clear. Get married for love and your future together and not because it is either expected of you or because of family pressure."

In a surprise finding the report found that nearly one in three, (29 per cent) 30-year-olds, believed that sex outside of marriage was wrong, higher than those in their 40s (18 per cent), 50s (14 per cent) and 60s (12 per cent).

Mr Benson commented: "Many social trends suggest we're becoming more liberal. The decline in marriage rates is an example of this. But social trends change. People think that divorce rates are rising, for example, when actually they peaked in the 1990s and have been falling ever since. One of our surprising new findings is that social attitudes have also turned a corner. Among 60-year-olds, just 12 per cent think that sex outside of marriage is wrong. But in our survey, we found that proportion had more than doubled to 29 per cent among those in their 30s. Perhaps surprisingly, young adults are less liberal and more conservative than their parents. They've seen the damage caused by the sexual revolution and want to get back to what works. It won't surprise me if we start to see the tide turn for marriage at some stage soon."

He continued: "These findings also act as a rebuke to those who argue that marriage doesn't matter and see it as a form of relationship contract or something to do. Those who marry for love and commitment are far less likely to divorce in every age group and despite the length of marriage. While those who feel pressured into marriage or just slide into marriage are much more likely to split up.

"We have long argued that the fall in divorce rates over the past thirty years is because fewer couples are marrying because they feel they have to and more couples are marrying because they really want to. Commitment and lifelong success in marriage is all about doing it because that's what you really want."

The report goes on: "In terms of dedication, the internal bond of commitment, thinking of your marriage as the cornerstone of life together and as a signal to one another are big positives. Sliding into marriage is a clear negative, showing a lack of deliberate intent.

"In terms of constraints, the external bonds of commitment, marrying because of social pressure is a big negative but marrying for your children is a big positive."

The report concludes: "The main finding is that there are clear signs of a unique link between certain aspects of commitment and subsequent stability.

"The fact that any of these reasons are linked to divorce at all is pretty remarkable considering that my model already takes into account factors such as age, occupation, wedding size, whether they did marriage prep or signed a prenup, and any difference in earnings or education within each marriage.

"The model then also adds in all twelve reasons so that if any one reason is to stand out it has to include some unique characteristic that is not covered by the other eleven reasons.

"In summary, those who view their marriage as a cornerstone of life together tend to do better and those who slide into marriage or marry because of social pressure."

Sir Paul Coleridge, founder of Marriage Foundation added: "It is often said that whether to marry and who to marry are the two most important decisions anyone ever has to take. But there is another which is every bit as important so far as the consequences for your life are concerned, namely; whether to get divorced. And of course, if there are children involved by this point the consequences can be even more drastic and far reaching. Now Harry Benson's latest research demonstrates that there can be a discernible link between these two life changing decisions which depends to a very considerable extent upon one's frame of mind at the outset when entering into this lifelong commitment. The more seriously and deliberately a couple take the decision to publicly commit the less likely they are to end up in the divorce courts. Drifting into marriage with only a vague idea about what the impact will be on your life over the long term undermines the psychological bond which we call commitment. If you take the decision to marry 'reverently and soberly' the chances are that you will join the majority cohort of spouses (60 per cent plus) who stay together 'till death do us part'."

Priest from Buffalo, New York, is on slow path to sainthood

 Western New York Catholic

For the world-renowned emblems of the Catholic faith, such as St. Teresa of Kolkata, elevation to sainthood comes fairly quickly following their deaths. For many others, the sainthood cause is a slow process that sometimes lurches to a stop.

One example is Venerable Nelson Baker, the Buffalo, New York, priest who died in 1936 and is the only Civil War veteran with a sainthood cause.

Baker, who served at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Buffalo after his ordination in 1876, was beloved in his lifetime for his charitable efforts for the poor, including serving thousands of meals during the depths of the Great Depression.

Dubbed by local newspapers as “the padre of the poor,” he built the Basilica of Our Lady of Victory in Lackawanna, New York, an orphanage, a maternity hospital, a trade school and a home for infant care.

The charitable work he began exists today as OLV Charities. Our Lady of Victory institutions include Homes of Charity, Baker Victory Services and Our Lady of Victory Elementary School.

Born in 1842, Baker entered the priesthood after operating a successful feed and grain business with a partner. Before that, he served in the 74th Infantry of the New York State Militia, a unit that organized in the summer of 1863 and was stationed in Central Pennsylvania, although it didn’t see combat.

If he is canonized, he will be the first St. Nelson, although that doesn’t surprise Msgr. David LiPuma, who will take over co-postulator duties when Father Paul Burkard steps down.

“We have a lot of Nelsons in western New York,” LiPuma explained. “A lot of people named their children after him.”

Baker was named a Servant of God in 1987 and in 2011, was named venerable by Pope Benedict XVI. The next step before canonization is to be named Blessed. The process depends on having two verified miracles as a result of prayers from supplicants.

And that’s where Baker’s cause hit a snag. Evidence of one medical miracle “didn’t pass the muster that was needed” by evaluators in Rome, LiPuma told Catholic News Service. As for the claims, he said: “I think they’re all from around western New York State.”

The goal has been to see Baker canonized on the 100th anniversary of the beginning of construction on the Basilica of Our Lady of Victory in Lackawanna, or even the 100th anniversary of its consecration in 2026. But it likely will require more time.

“We have to do some legwork,” LiPuma said.

The first Mass at the church was held at Christmas 1925, the consecration was in May 1926, and two months later, Pope Pius XI designated the church as a minor basilica.

Although building the church cost $3.2 million, it was remarkable for not plunging the parish into debt, LiPuma said. He attributes that to Baker’s marketing skills and jokingly called him “the patron saint of direct-mail,” who had a great business sense.

Marble stones used in building the church could be purchased for a donation of $10, but Father Baker was accepting donations as small as 25 cents and the priest eventually found many thousands of donors.

The basilica is currently undergoing restoration and because Father Baker didn’t scrimp on materials, simply replacing anything is impossible. The altar pillars are made from red marble from Spain and the pews from African mahogany. “That’s extinct now,” LiPuma said.

But the message of Father Baker still lives. As LiPuma put it: He “had the faith we need to be successful. We want the world to know that.”

Focus on Dialogue: Papal trip to highlight importance of opening doors

 Pope to travel to Bahrain in November | RVA

Pope Francis is set to make a four-day visit to Bahrain, a journey that will make him the first pope to visit the Arab kingdom just off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf.

The visit Nov. 3-6 has two main goals: To speak at the Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and West for Human Coexistence and to encourage the predominantly expatriate Catholic and Christian communities who live and work in the Muslim-majority region.

Underlining the theme of the visit, “Peace on Earth to people of goodwill,” the pope is expected to be a “messenger of peace,” appealing to all people and nations to come together, free from prejudice and open to seeing each other as brothers and sisters.

It will be the 13th Muslim-majority nation he has visited in his almost 10 years as pope.

Pope Francis is going to Bahrain to further promote interfaith cooperation because “there is a common interest among the monotheistic religions,” Bishop Paul Hinder, administrator of the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia, told reporters by video call from Abu Dhabi Oct. 24.

The common desire is to help “care for creation … knowing that if there is a conflict between Christian- and Muslim-majority nations, it is a problem for the whole world, not just for one or two countries,” said the 80-year-old Swiss bishop, who was first appointed auxiliary bishop of Arabia in 2003, and now oversees Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and, formally, Saudi Arabia.

The intention of the pope, he said, is “to make us understand that it is absolutely necessary” to find a place where there can be strong mutual respect and cooperation.

The pope will have a chance to underline the role governments, diplomats and members of civil society need to play when he meets with them Nov. 3 at Sakhir Palace. The pope also will meet with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, who invited the pope and is sponsoring the Forum for Dialogue event.

Bahrain, a prosperous archipelago nation of about 30 islands, is the smallest country in the Middle East, with about 1.5 million people, about half of whom are foreign workers. About 74 percent of the residents are Muslim and 9 percent are Christian. People of the Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish faiths are among the other communities present.

Hinder said there are no official statistics for the number of Christians, but the church estimates there are about 80,000 Catholics in Bahrain, about 1,000 of whom are citizens of the kingdom.

Catholics in Bahrain hail mainly from the Philippines, India and Sri Lanka. South Americans, Europeans and Arabs from the Levant region account for the rest of the island’s Christian population.

Hinder said Catholics are overjoyed that the pope is coming to encourage them in the faith.

They are “a small flock with little or practically no power,” he said. The papal visit makes them “feel recognized. ‘We exist!'” and it will boost their morale.

The expatriate workers do not have an easy life, he said, not because they live in a Muslim country, but because it is a life filled with uncertainty as many try to figure out their next move: to stay, return home or seek employment in the West.

Freedom of religion is generally well-respected in Bahrain, “even if it isn’t completely ideal,” the bishop said. For example, there are no official legal obstacles to religious conversion, he said, but there can be huge pressure from society and especially from one’s family against conversion.

Bahrain was the first country in the Persian Gulf to build a Catholic church — the Sacred Heart Church, which was inaugurated in 1939 on Christmas Eve. On his last day in Bahrain, the pope will hold a prayer meeting there with bishops, priests, religious, seminarians and pastoral workers.

The country is now also home to the largest cathedral in the Persian Gulf region; Our Lady of Arabia Cathedral was consecrated in December in Awali, which is 16 miles south of the capital Manama. It was built to better serve the growing Catholic population — estimated at 2.5 million — throughout the Gulf region.

The pope will hold an ecumenical meeting and prayer for peace in the cathedral Nov. 4, right after he meets with Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar mosque and university, and with members of the Muslim Council of Elders — an international group of Islamic scholars and experts — at the mosque of Sakhir Palace.

Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at Bahrain National Stadium in Awali Nov. 5, and Hinder said organizers have set aside reserved seating for Catholics from nearby nations, especially from Saudi Arabia, which does not allow Christians to practice their faith openly.

The pope’s visit will send “a strong signal” to Saudi Arabia, which will surely be watching, but is moving more slowly than some other nations in the region when it comes to greater respect for religious freedom and the dignity of all people, Bishop Hinder said.

“I am confident that going to a small state that does not have a lot of power in the game of Middle East politics” is perhaps “a good place for sending a signal” to the surrounding region, the bishop said.

While there have been some political reforms, Human Rights Watch has flagged several concerns, especially with the work visa sponsorship system, which gives employers excessive power over their foreign employees, and with the use of the death penalty and long prison sentences for pro-democracy activists.

Hinder said he would not expect the pope to raise those concerns publicly because, in his experience, more can be done “behind the scenes.”

Countries in the West are used to being able to openly criticize others, he said. Bahrain, however, has an “affirmative culture,” which emphasizes praise and encouragement, and discourages open criticism, which would be considered disrespectful.

What has been more effective in his discussions with leaders, he said, is to confide honestly and privately in a way that “opens the mind” to what the problems are.

“I expect some problematic things will also be on the agenda,” he said, but handled in a more discreet manner, out of the limelight.

Such “symbolic visits by a pope will have effects that we may not be able to foresee today,” he said. “I think his courageous steps will open doors. We don’t know where, but I hope they will also contribute to solutions for the conflicts in the area and perhaps also globally.”