Assisi 2011 was the theme of a press conference held in the Vatican on Tuesday looking ahead to next week’s Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World. Organised by the Pontifical Councils for Christian Unity, for Interreligious Dialogue, for Justice and Peace and for Culture, next Thursday’s event was called for by Pope Benedict on January 1st and will bring together in the Umbrian hill town some 300 representatives of all the world’s major religions, as Philippa Hitchen reports:
Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace is the name given to this 25th anniversary commemoration of the 1st day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi hosted by Pope John Paul II in October 1986. A quarter of a century on, Pope Benedict XVI will travel by train to the city of St Francis alongside Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Zoroastrians, Taoists, representatives of indigenous religions and, of course, leaders of other Christian Churches and communities, such as the head of the worldwide Anglican communion, Archbishop Rowan Williams, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew 1st and the head of the World Council of Churches, Rev Olav Fykse Tveit. For the first time there will also be a number of non-believers invited by the Pontifical council for Culture – undersecretary of the council, Mgr Melchior Sanchez de Toca explains why:
"It was this Pope's desire to invite some people, non-believers or at least who do not belong to any particular confession or religion.......It may seem a contradiction, but you can find sometimes in non-believing people a spirituality which can help us to examine ourselves and grow in our spirituality"
Unlike previous Assisi events, there will be no praying together in public but rather time for individual prayer and silent mediation during a joint pilgrimage to the tomb of St Francis. Representatives of the world’s religious traditions will then recommit themselves to praying and working for peace in the world, as the head of the Vatican’s justice and peace council, Cardinal Peter Turkson explains:
"The threats to peace are many and multi-faceted and peace is not only threatened by one human experience or manifestation - when I'm sick, I'm not at peace, when there's a war, I'm not at peace, when I don't see how I can feed my family at the end of the day, I'm also not at peace, when I'm going to lose my job tomorrow, I'm also not at peace - so also the ways of dealing with it must be many and multi-faceted......"
Listen to Philippa's report on Vatican Radio : >>