.- Arab Christians are reacting positively to the decision to include Arabic as one of the official languages used at the Pope’s weekly general audience.
“In this way, in the wake of his recent trip to Lebanon and the publication of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation ‘Ecclesia in Medio Oriente,’ the Holy Father intends to express his perpetual concern and support for Christians in the Middle East, and to remind everyone of their duty to pray and work for peace in the region,” said a Oct. 9 statement from the Vatican Press Office.
The Pope’s general audience is held every Wednesday. It allows him to meet with pilgrims to Rome and teach them on a particular area of Church teaching or spirituality. The audience also affords him an opportunity to comment on contemporary issues around the globe.
Beginning Oct. 10, an Arabic speaker will join the other people who provide a summary of the Pope’s catechesis in various different languages following his main address.
“We are really happy that finally the words of the Pope are to be issued directly from the Holy See in Arabic. The Arab world needs to have access to the wealth of wisdom that Pope Benedict offers,” the Rome-based Lebanese journalist and translator Tony Assaf told CNA Oct. 9.
“I think this is a great opportunity for Christians in the Middle East and Arab-speaking Christians around the world to be in direct contact with the Pope and the Church of Rome in their own language,” Assaf said.
With the falling of several Arab dictatorships in recent years, Pope Benedict has regularly expressed his hope that the so-called “Arab Spring” will give way to a culture of co-existence between religions rather than aid the rise of extremism.
During his visit to Lebanon last month, he challenged young Christians and Muslims in the Middle East to reject the path of violence and hate and, instead, to unleash a “revolution of love.”
“It is vital,” the Pope said to young Arabs at a Sept. 15 meeting in Lebaono, that when the Middle East looks at you it sees “that Muslims and Christians, Islam and Christianity, can live side by side without hatred, with respect for the beliefs of each person, so as to build together a free and humane society.”
Tony Assaf believes today’s announcement of Arabic being included in the general audience will prove “a big step forward” in Catholicism’s relationship with Islam.
“Average Muslims will now be able to connect directly with what the Pope is saying,” he said.
“People who have doubt, or are misled by certain media that twist the Holy Father’s words, will now be able to hear the truth directly in their own language.”