Arabic iBreviary a ‘Gateway’ to Religious Freedom

Father Paolo Padrini, a consultant with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said the Arabic version of the online breviary serves as an instrument of prayer, peace and religious liberty.

ROME — Father Paolo Padrini, creator of the iBreviary application, said that part of his goal for the recent release of the program in Arabic is fostering religious freedom in countries persecuted for their faith.

“This, I feel, is a very useful service. It’s a gateway to religious freedom, an instrument of religious freedom or an instrument of prayer and also an instrument of peace,” Father Padrini told CNA on April 15.

Father Padrini is a parish priest in Tortona, northern Italy, and is a consultant with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. He created the iBreviary application in 2008, which allows the faithful to pray the Liturgy of the Hours from wherever they are with just the touch of a button.

The breviary is a liturgical book used for public prayer that is centered on the Psalms. Clergy and religious promise to pray it daily, and many lay faithful choose to do so as well.

Father Padrini explained that he chose to offer the digital prayer book in Arabic in order “to offer a service for prayer, to offer prayer to the Catholics who live in Arabic countries in the Arabic language.

“They may be in the minority, but they exist, and they have the right to pray in their language.”

Emphasizing how Christians in Arab-speaking countries struggle to find books because they “are often censored,” the priest noted that smartphones “are very widespread in the nations of the Middle East, of Asia and of Africa.”

“Often, they are more widespread than computers,” he said, “so, through Arabic, I wanted to offer a service, and then I also wanted to open a door to religious freedom.”

“I think that religious freedom, like Pope Francis talked about, should be cultivated, made to grow,” Father Padrini continued, adding that “prayer on phones in Arabic could be an instrument to live religious freedom and recover the beauty of praying as Catholics in their own language.”

“It’s not nice for a Catholic who lives in Saudi Arabia or in other Arabic countries to pray in English. It’s more [meaningful] ... that one prays in [his] own language.”

“This is very important,” he went on to say, “because, when I pray, I pray as an Arabic person, as an Arab, not like the English. Or it could be French; or it could be Italian.”


Prayer Persecution

Drawing attention to the fact that Christians in many parts of the world today are suffering persecution, the priest emphasized that “the worst persecution of Christians, persecution of Catholics, is not being able to pray.”

“They cannot pray freely. So because of this motive, I think that the application helps there a lot, in the Middle Eastern countries and in the Arabic countries. Because it will give them a voice; it will give them a language to be able to pray.”

Already existing in nine languages including English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, Turkish, Arabic and Latin, Father Padrini explained that there are plans to expand iBreviary to other languages in the future in order to reach a wider audience.

“Every day I have calls requesting a new language,” he observed, noting that “the languages most requested and probably the next that we will do will be German and Polish,” after which he would like to expand to Chinese.

Referring to the rapid growth of the Church in Asia, the priest highlighted that “it would be just to give them help from the West, in a concrete way. iBreviary, I think, can be a simple tool, but also a concrete tool.”

The Arabic version of iBreviary was made available for the iPhone on April 15 and will be accessible for the iPad sometime this week. Father Padrini revealed that it will also be available for Google Play, Android devices, Kindle, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 in the coming weeks.

With all that a smartphone can do, it “must be also be an instrument of prayer,” he stressed, adding that, in creating it, “I didn’t do anything but bring the prayers into the hands of the faithful through the most simple and portable instrument possible.”

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