Assisi Meeting Will Feature Joint Pilgrimage
The Basilica of St. Francis is seen through trees in Assisi, Italy, 6 Sept. Pope Benedict XVI has convoked a 27 Oct. gathering with religious leaders in Assisi. The event will mark the 25th anniversary of Blessed Pope John Paul II's groundbreaking 1986 interreligious encounter. (Photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
19 Oct 2011 By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — More than 300
delegates from dozens of Christian churches, the world’s
major religions and nonbelievers will join Pope Benedict
XVI in Assisi Oct. 27 for a peace gathering focused more
on common pilgrimage than on prayer, a Vatican official
For the first time, a Buddhist delegation from
mainland China will join a Vatican-sponsored
interreligious meeting and, also for the first time, four
nonbelievers — three philosophers and an economist —
have accepted a papal invitation to attend.
The delegates, invited to Assisi by Pope Benedict
XVI to mark the 25th anniversary of Blessed John Paul
II’s interreligious gathering for peace, come from more
than 50 countries, Vatican officials said Oct. 18 at a news
conference to discuss plans for the gathering.
Each participant will be given a room in a
Franciscan guesthouse where he or she can rest, reflect
and pray after lunch and before an afternoon pilgrimage,
said Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical
Council for Justice and Peace.
“During the pilgrimage, the walk, in silence,” the
participants also are likely to pray, but “the real prayer
will be here at St. Peter’s on the vigil (Oct. 26) when the
Holy Father is with the Catholic faithful.”
Instead of holding his weekly general audience
Oct. 26, the pope will lead a special prayer service in
preparation for the Assisi event.
Unlike Blessed John Paul’s first Assisi meeting in
1986, there is no moment planned in Assisi when
participants will pray in each other’s presence.
“The emphasis is on pilgrimage rather than on
praying together,” Cardinal Turkson said.
He said the change was not meant as a judgment
on Blessed John Paul’s Assisi meetings, but an attempt to
be clear that members of different religions are not
praying together and to ensure that the specific identity
and the differences of each religion are being respected.
The Chief Rabbinate of Israel and Jewish leaders
from Italy will be among the delegates.
Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, secretary of the
Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said 176
participants will represent non-Christian, non-Jewish
While there have been some bumps in the road of
Catholic-Muslim dialogue, he said the Muslim
participation shows how much progress has been made in
the dialogue in the past 25 years. At the 1986 Assisi
meeting, 11 Muslims participated, he said, while in 2002
there were 32 Muslim representatives and this year there
will be 50.
Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Vatican Ecumenism Interreligious Assisi