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How The Pope's Resignation Is Playing Out In The Arab Press



Pope Benedict XVI shocked his Church with the announcement last week that he would resign from the papacy at the end of the month. The reaction in the Western press was, not surprisingly, enormous: newspapers, television and Internet sources in languages from English to Spanish to Italian and German could not get enough.

But what was being said about the news in the Arabic-language media?

Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Al-Elaph and Al-Mustaqbal were quick last week to explore the possible motivations behind the surprise announcement, focusing on both the Pope's health and the internal scandals at the Vatican. “The Pope resigns and admits his powerlessness,” headlined Al-Mustaqbal after last Monday's announcement. 

Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm cited unidentified Church sources as saying the Vatican wasn't being forthcoming about the real reasons for the resignation: “Ethical scandals over the resignation of the Pope: the Vatican confirms he has cancer and Alzheimer's.”

File photo of Benedict in St. Peter's Square (Marek)

London-based Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi laid out the qualities the next Pope will need: “What are the requirements for the next papacy? The next Pope has to be conservative and stubborn in order to face Islam and Protestantism.”

Indeed, many Arab newspapers insist on the fact that the coming Pope will have to make an extra effort in inter-religious relations, particularly with Islam, considering the lingering effects of Benedict XVI's controverial speech in Regensburg in 2006 when he referred to violence in Islam. “Unlike his predecessor, Benedict XVI was a divisive figure, angering Muslims when he quoted a 14th-Century text saying that the Prophet Muhammad had only brought “evil and inhuman” things to the world,” wrote The Gulf News.

The Jordanian newspaper Al-Rai said that, on the other hand, Benedict XVI was successful in fostering relations between the Christian and Jewish worlds: “Under his authority the relations between the Chief Rabbinate and the Church, got closer, which led to a reduction of anti-Semitic acts in the world.”

The Pope's resignation opened the door to choosing a new pontiff from outside Europe, with the Old Continent now accounting for only 25% of Catholics, wrote Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: “The new Pope will be chosen from a non-European country. It's between Latin America and Africa.” 

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