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Avoid "syncretist" approach, Pope urges Assisi meeting September 04, 2006

In a message to the 20th Inter-religious Meeting of Prayer for Peace, being held in Assisi this week, Pope Benedict XVI cautioned against "syncretistic interpretations" and "relativistic concepts" in inter-faith activities.

At the time of the original inter-religious meeting held at Assisi on October 27, 1986, as an initiative promoted by Pope John Paul II, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had expressed grave reservations about the event. Now, in a message to Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi, he sought to put the event in context.

The first Assisi meeting was an important watershed, "destined to leave a mark on the history of our times." The meeting underlined the honest desire for peace that all faiths share, he said, and "served to clarify beyond any possibility of doubt that religion cannot but be a harbinger of peace."

Since 1986, the Pope observed, the most important development in international affairs "has without doubt been the fall of the communist-inspired regimes of Eastern Europe." The collapse of Communism and the end of the Cold War gave rise to new hopes for a world of peace, he recalls.

"Unfortunately this dream has not come true," the Pope continued. "Quite the, the third millennium began with episodes of terrorism and violence that show no signs of abating." To counteract that growing threat, more prayer is needed. He praised Pope John Paul II for having shown the world that "prayer does not divide but unites," and believers of different faiths can unite their intentions.

However, even in unified prayer, the Pope said, different faiths should not forfeit their own identities and creeds. He observed that in 1986, organizers of the Assisi event worked to preserve the "distinct paradigms particular to the various religions." The same care must be taken today, the Pontiff said: "The convergence of opposites must not give the impression of a capitulation to the relativism that denies the very meaning of truth and the possibility of attaining it."

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