Pope Francis met Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Eisa Al Khalifa during a private audience at the Vatican, February 3, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters file

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis will in November visit Bahrain, home to the biggest Catholic church in the Arabian peninsula, the Vatican said Wednesday.

Francis, 85, will be the first pope ever to visit the majority-Muslim country, according to Vatican News.

He has been under doctor’s orders to slow down, after suffering from a painful knee that has forced him to use a wheelchair and cancel some events.

Francis will visit the capital of Manama and city of Awali during the November 3 to 6 trip, and will attend the “Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and West for Human Coexistence”.

Further details of the visit - the 39th international trip of Francis’s papacy - will be released at a later date.

But the pontiff is likely to visit the cavernous Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia, in Awali, which opened its doors last year.

The modern-style church lies about a mile (1.6 kilometres) from a large mosque and a stone’s throw from an oil well, in the south of the state.

It was built to serve the country’s 80,000 or so Catholics, mainly workers from Asia, mostly India and the Philippines.

The pontiff received Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Eisa Al Khalifa at the Vatican in 2014.

The pair discussed “peace and stability in the Middle East” and the Christian community’s positive contribution to the country, the Holy See said at the time.

The trip comes on the back of another journey to a Muslim-majority country, following Francis’s visit to Kazakhstan earlier this month.

In 2019, Francis visited Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, the first pontiff to visit the Arabian peninsula and say a Mass. There he signed a landmark document with the chief imam of the Al Azhar in Cairo, the seat of Sunni learning, pledging Catholic-Muslim cooperation to work for peace.

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

Vatican officials first announced the trip to Bahrain on the flight back from the pope’s trip to Kazakhstan earlier this month but did not give the dates.