View From Rome

View from Rome

25 May 2017 | by Christopher Lamb


With its ancient cobbled streets, bustling market stalls and Syrian-run jewellery shops, Rome’s Trastevere neighbourhood has an almost middle-eastern feel. So it’s appropriate that here you will find the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI), a centre dedicated to training priests and laity in dialogue with Muslims. 

By “Pontifical” standards it is housed in a modest building, a former school once used to educate the children of workers at the Vatican’s old tobacco factory. Up on its rooftop you can see an inscription that tells you Pius IX built the factory for processing nicotianis – that’s Latin for nicotine leaves. There is a well-stocked library and a white-walled chapel,  where Mass is said regularly in Arabic.

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