CASTELGANDOLFO - The Vatican praised Bahrain's religious tolerance on Wednesday during a visit by the Gulf state's king to Pope Benedict XVI at his summer residence outside Rome.
Benedict and King Hamad had what the Vatican described as "cordial" discussions in Castelgandolfo.
"The Vatican authorities thanked the king for the welcome given to numerous Christian immigrants" to his country, it said in a statement.
The two men "reiterated their common commitment to intercultural and inter-religious dialogue."
The tiny Gulf state has a population of 530,000 people, nine percent of which is Christian, nearly all of them expatriate workers from the Philippines.
The king recently named a Jewish woman, Huda Nunu, as ambassador to the United States in what Bahraini officials said was a choice which reflected a climate of tolerance towards minorities in Bahrain.
During the course of their discussions, the king invited Benedict to visit Bahrain, the Vatican said.
The country has close ties with Washington and is the headquarters of the US navy's Fifth Fleet.