The 5th Interreligious Meeting in Assisi

Source: FSSPX News

On September 20, 2016, the World Day of Prayer for Peace concluded the Interreligious Meeting for Peace organized by the Sant’Egidio Community in Assisi, on the topic: Thirst for Peace: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue—thirty years after the first interreligious meeting called for by John Paul II in Assisi on October 27, 1986.

Pope Francis traveled there by helicopter and landed around 11:00 a.m. on Migaghelli sports field in Santa Maria degli Angeli. He was welcomed by Abp. Domenico Sorrentino, Archbishop of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, Catiuscia Marini, President of the Region of Umbria, Raffaele Cannizzaro, Prefect of Perugia, and Stefania Proietti, Mayor of Assisi.

Ecumenical prayer for peace in the lower basilica.

500 participants in the “World Day of Prayer for Peace”

The Pope arrived at the Convent of Saint Francis of Assisi, where he was greeted by Father Mauro Gambetti, Custos of the Convent, Bartholomew I, Primate of the Orthodox Church of Constantinople, Abbas Shuman, Vice-President of the Sunnite Al-Azhar University (Cairo), Riccardo Di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome, Justin Welby, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of the Church of England, Ignatius Aphrem II, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, and by the supreme head of Buddhism, Tendai (Japan). They all went together to the Sixtus IV cloister, where representatives of the Churches and world religions awaited them. For more than an hour the Pope greeted each of the 500 participants, religious representatives but also political and cultural figures. Several French bishops participated in those days: Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyons; Bp. Michel Santier of the Diocese of Créteil; Bp. Marc Stenger of the Diocese of Troyes, and Abp. Laurent Ulrich of the Archdiocese of Lille.

The Pope then went to the refectory of the Convent for a luncheon with the religious representatives and a dozen refugees from Syria, Eritrea, Nigeria and Mali.

Ecumenical prayer for peace

At 4:00 p.m. the meditations of the ecumenical prayer for peace took place at the Lower Basilica of Assisi, led by Pope Francis, the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, and the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, in the presence of various cardinals and the prior of Taizé, Brother Alois.

The meditations were followed by a prayer of intercession for each of the 28 countries suffering from conflicts, while a candle was lit as the assembly repeated Kyrie eleison: Syria, Afghanistan, Burma, Burundi, Columbia, Central America, Democratic Republic of Congo, South and North Korea, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Iraq, Kashmir, Libya, Mali, Mexico, the Mindanao region (Philippines), Mozambique, Upper Karabakh, Nigeria, Pakistan, Casamance (Senegal), Somalia, Southern Sudan, Ukraine, Venezuela, Yemen, the Holy Land and “all other lands polluted by the virus of hatred”.

The celebration ended with the exchange of a sign of the peace of Christ, the praying of the Our Father, and the final blessing by the Christian leaders present and the blessing by Pope Francis.

At the same time, representatives of other religions were in different places in the city of Saint Francis to pray, each according to his religious tradition, and to beg for the gift of peace. In one hall were gathered several who adore Allah, who prayed facing Mecca; 27 Muslim delegations had made the trip. In the gardens the pagan cults gathered, whereas, in the shadow of one cloister, the rabbis talked or intoned chants. In all, Assisi assembled 9 different religions and 26 “religious and philosophical expressions”.

In front of the Basilica.

The Call to Peace

At 5:00 p.m., the 450 religious representatives of nine different confessions found themselves on the square in front of the Franciscan Basilica for the final speeches and the solemn signing of the Call to Peace.

In front of the rows of seats filled with religious dignitaries and representatives from the world of culture, Abp. Domenico Sorrentino saluted “the prophetic spirit of Assisi” that shows that “it is possible for believing humanity to feel that it is one family.” The Custos of the Convent of Assisi encouraged the listeners to be ready to “die for peace”. Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant’Egidio Community, assured the audience that war was “the folly of people hungry for power and money” but that it could be conquered by humility and prayer. Tamar, an Armenian Christian refugee from Syria, testified to the sufferings endured by a country where earlier “there were no differences between Christians and Muslims.” The Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I declared that “peace requires justice too,” while pleading for a new economy that cares about the poorest people on the planet. He called for every religious family to conduct “self-criticism” in order to purify itself for the purpose of peace. Rabbi David Brodman, who as a child had been deported to the concentration camps, paid homage to Pope Francis, his “dear friend, the Holy Father,” saluting his “humility”, the greatest virtue and sign of holiness, he added. And he summed up the spirit of this day: “All different, but all together.” The President of the Indonesian Ulema Council for his part denounced violence and terrorism and declared: “Islam is a religion of peace” (sic).

After the speech in Japanese by Tendai, the head of Buddhism, Pope Francis took the podium, assuring the audience that “the name of God can never justify violence.” He hammered the point home: “Only peace is holy, not war!” The Supreme Pontiff continued: “We have no weapons, but we believe in the gentle, humble force of prayer.” “There is no future in war, and armed violence destroys the joy of life.”

Rabbi David Brodman.

Calling on his listeners to “confront the great sickness of our era: the paganism of indifference,” Francis warned against various attitudes the attitude of “someone who can only protest and get angry” or of “someone who washes his hands of the problems” of others, or else “someone who judges everything on the keyboard of a computer”.

The Pope encouraged leaders of nations not to grow weary of “promoting paths of peace beyond the partisan and momentary interests.” “Our future is to live together” by putting down the “heavy burdens of mistrust, fundamentalism and hatred,” he added. And he gave the example of the participants in Assisi: “Our religious traditions are diverse. But for us that difference is not a reason for conflict.”

The gathering on September 20, 2016, ended with a solemn Call to Peace. The religious representatives from all over the world declared “the indissoluble bond between the great good of peace and authentic religious engagement.” They all proclaimed: “No to war!”, expressing their wish for the coming “of a new time when the globalized world might become a family of peoples.” The name of God should not be invoked “to justify terrorism, violence and war”, because “war in the name of religion becomes a war on religion itself,” because “violence and terrorism are opposed to the true religious spirit.” The solution to conflicts and the condition for “building a true peace” comes through meeting and dialogue in which “we can all be artisans of peace.”

After Pope Francis’ speech, the participants observed a minute of silence for the victims of wars and violence. This was followed by the solemn proclamation of the Call to Peace that explains the spirit of Assisi: “This is the spirit that inspires us: to achieve encounter in dialogue, to oppose all forms of violence and of abuse of religion to justify war and terrorism.” “Peace is the name of God,” the signatories of all religions declare, affirming “that violence and terrorism are opposed to the true religious spirit.” They implore government leaders “to defuse the motives for wars”.

Several children of different nationalities then came to receive from the hands of the religious representatives a scroll containing the Call to Peace, to wave it in front of the crowd, which applauded to the sound of modern music.

In a symbolic gesture, each of the religious and cultural representatives lit a candle on a large candelabra before signing the Call to Peace of Assisi 2016. The participants also prayed for the victims of the recent attacks in France and for all the refugees of the world. At the conclusion of the meeting, all the participants exchanges a sign of peace, embracing one another or shaking hands in a joyful confusion, while the loudspeakers blared the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel. At around 6:30 p.m. Pope Francis boarded his automobile so as to return to the Vatican by helicopter.

(Sources: Apic/IMedia/radiovatican/zenit – DICI no. 341 dated September 30, 2016)

Read also:
Fatima versus Assisi
What Pope Francis said in Assisi
Assisi 2016: Pope Francis in the footsteps of John Paul II
Abp. Lefebvre and the spirit of Assisi
A lesson in skepticism
The highlights
The missionary spirit, the “spirit of Assisi”