VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI's weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square will be translated into Arabic after the pontiff said he wanted to reach out to the Middle East, a Vatican spokesman said Tuesday.
"The Holy Father wants to show his interest, his encouragement and his support for Christians in the Middle East and invite the faithful to pray for peace" in the region, spokesman Federico Lombardi told journalists.
The 85-year-old head of the Roman Catholic Church addresses pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square from his balcony each Wednesday.
While the main body of his speech is delivered in Italian, he then sums up his message in English, French, German, Polish and Portuguese. The pontiff will not speak in Arabic, but will have a translator summarize his message.
There are an estimated 15 million Christians living in the Middle East, though large numbers have been displaced by unrest and conflict in the region, with many complaining that they are being increasingly persecuted.
The important role Arabic played in contributing to Christian theological thought was highlighted at a Middle East synod at the Vatican in 2010, where top Catholics called for it to be incorporated more widely within the Holy See.