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Classics

Benedict XVI, the Apostle Paul. Preface to the Arabic edition

Benedict XVI is a great theologian. And it is because he is great that he is able to present the truths of faith, even the most difficult ones, with simplicity. He takes believers by the hand and leads them to look upwards, in order to understand ‘the extent, the length, the height and the depth’ (Eph. 3.18) of the mystery of Christ. The catecheses on St. Paul are an eloquent example of this. Written during the Pauline year, they bear the unmistakable mark of the pontiff, who in 20 short texts managed to reassume the main aspects of the extraordinary personal and ecclesial experience of the Apostle to the Gentiles. Never disconnected from a pastoral concern, the discourse of Benedict XVI by and large follows a chronological order. In the middle of the volume as in the middle of life is the meeting with the Resurrected Crucifix, the authentic heart of Pauline thought. It is therefore an honour for the Fondazione Internazionale Oasis to publish, thanks to the backing of Kirche in Not, the Arabic translation of these catecheses by the Pauline Fathers’ publishing house. And while we hope that this book may be the start of a series of translations that offer the Arab public all the extraordinary portraits of the Fathers of the Church and the ecclesiastic writers that for some years now have been brought to attention by Benedict XVI, we welcome the opportunity to say a word to the principal categories of readers who we imagine will be interested in this volume.

 

 

 

First of all we naturally have in mind the Catholics of the different rites, who in the Middle East show a vitality that is considerably superior to their number. To know and to study the Pope’s teaching in depth is undoubtedly the best way to strengthen the greatest gift that the Lord has left His disciples: that communio that unites men of different peoples and cultures, managing to create, according to the bold expression of Paul VI, ‘an ethnic entity sui generis’. We are however certain that the volume will receive a warm welcome also among the Christian brothers of the other Churches and ecclesial communities, often of ancient tradition, at times born following Paul’s preaching. To go to the roots of common faith by tracing the main phases of the life of this Champion of the Gospel will be the occasion to rediscover our common Christian inheritance.

 

 

 

Lastly, it is our hope that the book will also be diffused in the Islamic world. It is well known how different Muslim thinkers and theologians, even before the arrival of the modern nineteenth-century critique, expressed strong doubts concerning the reliability of the Pauline scripts, accusing the apostle of having altered the original Christian message. The Pope dedicated various pages to this thesis, highlighting the elements which from a Christian point of view demonstrate the complete continuity between the Pauline announcement and the mission of the Resurrected Crucifix.

 

 

 

It is evident to all that one of the most urgent needs of our time is better reciprocal knowledge among the believers of the different religions. It therefore becomes fundamental that Christians and Muslims can know the vision that others have of them and their faith, without reducing it to within their own categories a priori. This is moreover the example that is offered to us by some of the highest representatives of the Arab-Islamic civilisation, like the scientist al-Bîrûnî who, without giving up his Muslim faith, gave such an accurate summary of the Indian civilisation that it has kept its document value up to present day. The non-Christian reader is therefore certain to find a reliable presentation of who St. Paul was and what his role is in Christianity. To know the point of view held by over one billion believers with regard to this exceptional figure is of undeniable cultural interest. Whether this point of view is also well-founded, each reader can verify this in the objective comparison with the historical data available.

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