Standing in front of thousands of people in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican City, leader of the Christian faith Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday, October 10, addressed the people in Arabic language for the first time. The Catholic pontiff said in Arabic: "The pope prays for all people who speak Arabic. May God bless you all."
With these words, the pope scored a diplomatic bull's eye. Since Arabic is making its debut as one of the official languages of the Vatican, the pope hopes to reach out more to Christians and Muslims in the Middle East. Traditionally, French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Slovak, Czech, Polish, Hungarian and Russian are the official language of broadcast. The Vatican said the addition was made to show the pontiff's concern for Christians in the Middle East and to remind both Muslims and Christians of the need to work for peace in the region.
We commend the pope's effort at winning confidence of the people of Middle East who are predominantly Muslims. The Vatican has been concerned about the exodus from the Middle East of Christians, many of whom leave because they fear for their safety.
Speaking Arabic during the audiences, which are broadcast live on television and radio across the world, would send a comforting word to Christians in the region and other places around the world where religion has assumed a somewhat volatile subject and fundamentalist disposition. By addressing Muslims, the pope stands to achieve peace, douse tension and improve strained relations with Islam.
A Vatican statement said the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics wanted to continue the spirit of his trip to Lebanon last month. During the trip, the pope made many appeals to both Christians and Muslims to work for an end to the conflict in neighbouring Syria and for peace in the entire region.
In 2006, the pope gave a speech in Regensburg which was perceived by some Muslims as an attack on Islam. The pope said he was misunderstood and later visited a mosque in Turkey and prayed with an imam.
At the heart of the security challenges facing the world are the activities of terrorists latching on to extreme religious precepts.
We think the example of Pope Benedict provides a contrast to such fundamentalism. By his actions and discretion, the pope is consciously creeping into history as a peace and change agent in a world that is full of hate, acrimony and distrust.