The Pope delivered a greeting in Arabic for the first time during his weekly general audience as part of an effort to reach out to Muslims as well as Arabic-speaking Christians in the Middle East.
UK TELEGRAPH Benedict XVI typically delivers greetings in six languages, including English and Italian, but added a message in Arabic as he addressed the crowds in St Peter’s Square. “The pope prays for all people who speak Arabic. May God bless you all,” the Pontiff said. An Arabic-speaking priest read out a fuller summary of the Pope’s address, which dwelt on the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, which reformed key aspects of the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960s.
The Vatican said it was adding Arabic to the six other languages, including Italian, English, French and Benedict’s native German, typically spoken during the general audience.
The initiative reflects the Church’s concern that Christians are being persecuted in the region and that their numbers are dwindling. (Concern? Is that all you are is ‘concerned’ about the Christian genocide going on in the Muslim world? That’s why their numbers are dwindling)
A century ago Christians made up about 20 per cent of the population of the Middle East, but that figure has now dropped to around five per cent, as war and Christian genocide force many to emigrate. The population is estimated to be around 15 million.
The Vatican said it hoped the Pope’s adoption of Arabic would be a comfort to Arabic-speaking Christians in the Middle East and could ease tensions with Muslims. (Oh sure, don’t help them get out of Muslim countries, just speak to them in Arabic…just as good)
Benedict’s papacy was plunged into crisis in 2006, just a year after he was elected, when he gave a speech at the University of Regensburg in Germany, in which he quoted a highly critical remark about Islam made by a 14th century Byzantine emperor.
It referred to the teachings of Mohammed as “evil and human” and alluded to his “command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” (For which the Pope had to grovel in apology, or risk being killed)
The Vatican insisted that the quote was taken out of context and that Benedict was misunderstood, but the speech led to violent protests in some Islamic countries.
The Pope, 85, is keen to further a spirit of reconciliation between Christians and Muslims following his trip to Lebanon last month, where he appealed for people of both religions to help to end the conflict in neighbouring Syria. (How about asking Muslims in Lebanon what happened to all the Christians who used to comprise 80% of the Lebanese population, but now number under 20%?)
“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,” the Vatican said in a statement. (Prayer isn’t helping them. DO SOMETHING that will!)