Assisi Participants Express a Sense of Crisis in Modern Society
Pope Benedict XVI addresses the interfaith peace meeting in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi, Italy, 27 Oct. He brought together 300 religious leaders for the meeting on the 25th anniversary of the first such gathering hosted by Blessed John Paul II in 1986. (photo: CNS/Giampiero Sposito, Reuters)
28 Oct 2011 by John Thavis
ASSISI, Italy (CNS) — A common thread ran
through many of the speeches and invocations of this
years prayer for peace encounter in Assisi: the uneasy
sense that the world is facing not merely conflicts and
wars, but a much broader crisis that affects social and
cultural life in every country.
Environmental damage, the rich-poor divide,
erosion of cultural traditions, terrorism and new threats to
societys weakest members were cited as increasingly
worrisome developments by speakers at the interfaith
gathering in the Italian pilgrimage town Oct. 27.
Pope Benedict XVI, addressing the 300
participants, echoed those points in his own analysis of the
state of global peace 25 years after Blessed John Paul II
convened the first Assisi meeting.
In 1986, he noted, the world was caught up not
only in simmering armed conflicts but also in a cold war
between two opposing blocs. Today, the Cold War is over
and there is no threat of a great war hanging over us, but
nevertheless the world is, unfortunately, full of discord,
The pope said this discord has taken on new and
frightening guises, and he singled out two forms:
terrorism, including acts of violence that are religiously
motivated; and the spiritual erosion that has occurred in
highly secularized societies.
The worship of Mammon, possessions and power
is proving to be a counter-religion, in which it is no longer
man who counts but only personal advantage, he said. He
cited the illegal drug trade and drug dependency to show
how desire for happiness today can degenerate into an
unbridled, inhuman craving.
Twenty-five years ago, the success of the Assisi
prayer summit was measured in part by how many warring
parties respected Pope John Pauls call for a one-day truce.
In the 2011 edition, there was no truce call and no mention
of specific conflicts by participants, with the exception of
a brief reference to Jerusalem as a contested city.
Thats not because wars have disappeared from the
horizon, but because world harmony is seen as threatened
in alarming new ways:
— The growing risk of cultural conflicts was
highlighted by Ja-Seung, a Korean Buddhist. Other
speakers warned that globalization has sometimes
prompted a backlash among those who fear the weakening
of cultural identity.
— The world is ignoring massive loss of life
among the poorest, said Anglican Archbishop Rowan
Williams of Canterbury, making a point echoed by several
—Others said the economic crisis has placed
everyones future under a cloud. The Rev. Olav Fykse
Tveit, a Lutheran minister and secretary-general of the
World Council of Churches, said that with the current
high unemployment among young people, it feels as
though we are gambling with the welfare and happiness of
— Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
of Constantinople expressed concern that changes set in
motion by pro-democracy movements in Arab countries
may end up leaving Christian minorities less protected
Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Vatican Interreligious Interfaith Assisi