In historic first, Pope Benedict offers prayer in Arabic
Event marks the first time a pope has ever said prayer in Arabic
Pope Benedict XVI offered up a blessing in the Arabic language this week. The pope delivered the prayer at his weekly audience in front of 20,000 pilgrims on Saint Peter's Square. It was the first such time that Arabic language had been used at the event.
'The pope prays for all Arabic speakers. May God bless you all!' the pope said in Arabic. A bishop then read out an Arabic translation of the pope's comments praising the results of the Second Vatican Council.
According to some estimates, the current population of 12 million Christians in the Middle East could halve by 2020 if security and birth rates continue to decline.
Vatican officials said that speaking Arabic during the audiences, which are broadcast live on television and radio across the world, would send a comforting word to Christians in a region which is home to many Christian holy places.
They also hope the pope addressing Muslims directly could improve sometimes strained relations with Islam.
"The pope prays for all Arabic speakers. May God bless you all!" the pope said in Arabic. A bishop then read out an Arabic translation of the pope's comments praising the results of the Second Vatican Council.
The landmark Council, begun 50 years ago this week, is a "compass" for the Catholic Church "in the middle of the storms", the pope said.
Better known as Vatican II, which revolutionized Catholic rituals the then Joseph Ratzinger took part in the Council As a young reformer.
The Council brought together 2,250 bishops and lasted from 1962 until 1965.
Pope Benedict has steadfastly defended the 15 "constitutions" adopted by the Council despite complaints from traditionalists in the Church over several reforms.
Benedict is due to celebrate mass on St Peter's Square to launch a "Year of Faith" on the exact anniversary of the start of Vatican II.
© 2012, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Pope Benedict, Arabic language, Middle East, Vatican 2
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