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Papal Message Recalls Assisi Meeting of '86

10/10/2006 - 6:00 AM PST

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"Religion Must Be a Herald of Peace"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 10, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a Vatican translation of the message Benedict XVI sent Sept. 4 to Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi-Nocera, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Interreligious Meeting of Prayer for Peace.

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MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO BISHOP DOMENICO SORRENTINO

ON THE OCCASION OF THE 20th ANNIVERSARY
OF THE INTERRELIGIOUS MEETING OF PRAYER FOR PEACE

To my Venerable Brother
Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino

This year is the 20th anniversary of the Interreligious Meeting of Prayer for Peace, desired by my venerable Predecessor John Paul II on 27 October 1986 in Assisi.

It is well known that he did not only invite Christians of various denominations to this Meeting but also the exponents of different religions. The initiative made an important impact on public opinion. It constituted a vibrant message furthering peace and an event that left its mark on the history of our time.

Thus, the memory of those events continues to inspire initiatives of reflection and commitment. Some are planned to take place in Assisi itself on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of that initiative. I am thinking of the celebration organized in agreement with this Diocese by the Sant'Egidio Community, like its other annual meetings.

Moreover, on the actual days of the anniversary, a Convention organized by the Theological Institute of Assisi will be held, and the particular Churches of this Region will gather at the Eucharist concelebrated by the Bishops of Umbria in the Basilica of St Francis.

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue will organize a meeting of dialogue, prayer and peace training for Catholic young people and those from other religious backgrounds.

These initiatives, each with its own specific style, highlight the value of John Paul II's insight and demonstrate its timeliness in light of what has happened in the past 20 years and of humanity's situation today.

There is no doubt that the most significant event in this period was the fall of the Communist-inspired regimes in Eastern Europe. This brought an end to the Cold War that had given rise to a sort of division of the world into an axis of opposing influence that spawned the storing of terrifying arsenals and armies in preparation for a full-scale war.

This was a moment when the widespread hope for peace induced many people to dream of a different world, where relations between peoples would develop, safe from the nightmare of war, and where the "globalization" process would unfold under the banner of a peaceful encounter of peoples and cultures in the context of a common international law inspired by respect for the needs of truth, justice and solidarity.

Unfortunately, this dream of peace never came true. On the contrary, the third millennium opened with scenes of terrorism and violence that show no sign of abating. Then, the fact that armed conflicts are taking place today against a background of the geographical and political tensions that exist in many regions may give the impression that not only cultural diversity but also religious differences are causes of instability or threats to the prospect of peace.

It is under this profile that the initiative John Paul II promoted 20 years ago has acquired the features of an accurate prophecy. His invitation to the world's religious leaders to bear a unanimous witness to peace serves to explain with no possibility of confusion that religion must be a herald of peace.

As the Second Vatican Council taught in the Declaration "Nostra Aetate" on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions: "We cannot truly pray to God the Father of all if we treat any people in other than brotherly fashion, for all men are created in God's image" (n. 5).

Despite the differences that mark the various religious itineraries, recognition of God's existence, which human beings can only arrive at by starting from the experience of creation (cf. Rom 1:20), must dispose believers to view other human beings as brothers and sisters. It is not legitimate, therefore, for anyone to espouse religious difference as a presupposition or pretext for an aggressive attitude toward other human beings.

It could be objected that history has experienced the regrettable phenomenon of religious wars. We know, however, that such demonstrations of violence cannot be attributed to religion as such but to the cultural limitations with which it is lived and develops in time.

Yet, when the religious sense reaches maturity it gives rise to a perception in the believer that faith in God, Creator of the universe and Father of all, must encourage relations of universal brotherhood among ...

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