The Vatican has released a new Arabic-language guidebook, the first of its kind, which aims to bring the culture of the Catholic Church to a new audience. RNS photo/Rosie Scammell

New Arabic-language Vatican guidebook aims to explain Catholic culture

By  Rosie Scammell, Religion News Service
  • June 9, 2015

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican has released a new Arabic-language guidebook, the first of its kind, which aims to bring the culture of the Catholic Church to a new audience.

Titled “The Vatican, its Significance and its Monuments,” the guidebook hit bookstores around the Holy See late last month and goes beyond sightseeing tips.

The book’s author, Edmond Farhat, said he was compelled to write the guide after a lengthy diplomatic career representing the Vatican across North Africa.

“I returned to Rome and it had completely changed. When I go to St. Peter’s, I always meet Arab people who are looking to understand something,” he told RNS.

While there are multiple guides to the Vatican in Italian, English, French and other languages, there had been a distinctive lack of such books in Arabic. Farhat said he aimed to fill this gap but wanted to offer more than the bare facts.

“It’s not only a guide to the monuments, but an introduction to the historical and cultural reality of what the Catholic Church is. It’s the first Arabic book of its kind in modern times,” he said.

Although the book will likely be used mostly by visitors to the Vatican, Farhat said he hoped it would also be read by people in his native Lebanon and elsewhere: “Culture doesn’t have a color, a race or a language; it’s of interest to all of mankind.”

Publication of the guide comes as Pope Francis continues to push for dialogue with leaders and their communities in the Middle East.

Last month the pontiff welcomed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the Vatican to celebrate the canonization of two 19th-century nuns, the first Catholic saints to hail from Palestine.

The occasion came nearly a year after Abbas and the then-Israeli president, Shimon Peres, joined the Pope in prayer at the Vatican following the pontiff’s visit to the region.

The ongoing conflict in Syria has also drawn Francis’ attention during his papacy, although an Eastern-rite archbishop in the country recently criticized Christians for not doing enough. “We expect Christians in the West to help us. They do not,” said Jean-Clement Jeanbart, archbishop of the war-ravaged city of Aleppo.

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