.- After his recent visit to the Church in Lebanon, Pope Benedict added Arabic to the list of official languages used at his weekly general audiences, launching the effort by offering the promise of his prayers in Arabic.

“The Pope prays for all the people who speak Arabic. God bless you all,” he said in Arabic at the Oct. 10 general audience, which was held in St. Peter’s Square.

For the first time, a priest also read an Arabic summary of the Pope’s remarks on how the Second Vatican Council was a “moment of grace” in the Church’s history. Going forward, Arabic will join the 10 other official languages in which a brief explanation is delivered.

“In the wake of his recent trip to Lebanon … 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 news was welcomed by the Lebanese journalist and translator Tony Assaf. “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,” he told CNA on Oct. 9.
Assaf praised the decision for giving Arabs, both Christian and Muslim, the ability to “connect directly with what the Pope is saying” and giving them “direct contact with the Pope … in their own language.”