Many news agencies have reported that Pope Benedict XVI, fresh off his visit to Arabic-speaking Christians in Lebanon, has added Arabic to the list of languages in which he offers papal blessings.

After the [weekly] address, which dealt with the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, the pope said in Arabic: "The pope prays for all people who speak Arabic. May God bless you all."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 to work for peace in the region. (REUTERS)

Good for him! Our brothers and sisters are suffering, especially in Syria. To hear a papal blessing in Arabic must bring a moment of spiritual respite amid turmoil.UPDATED:At the time I wrote this yesterday, I was relying on the news reports that translated the Pope's Arabic blessing as "May God bless you all," and for which I assumed that the Arabic blessing used the generic word for God in Arabic, Allah. That was a reasonable but, as it turned out, false assumption.After the text of the audience was posted to the Vatican website, it is clear that the blessing uses al-Rab, which would normally be translated into the English as "the Lord."So, no, the word "Allah" did not ring out in St. Peter's square.One peril of blogging is that, with the speed of information flow and analysis, we can get the news wrong based on limited information. But one great feature of blogging is that corrections can be made in a place where people will actually see the corrections!My points about translations of divine names in journalism are still relevant, though. The translations can certainly strive for more accuracy. My guess is that the reporters translated not from the Arabic but from the official Italian translation of the Arabic, which I now see was "Dio," the normal word for God. Although Dio is an acceptable translation of Al-Rab, it would seem that Signore would be more accurate and better reflect Christian Arabic usage. On the other hand, the choice of Al-Rab can signify God for both Muslim and Christian speakers of Arabic, and so the message seems to have been intended for all.  

Michael Peppard is associate professor of theology at Fordham University and on the staff of its Curran Center for American Catholic Studies. He is the author of The World's Oldest Church and The Son of God in the Roman World, and on Twitter @MichaelPeppard. He is a contributing editor to Commonweal.

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