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Pope calls for inter-faith peace pilgrimage to Assisi

Catholic World News - January 03, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI has asked the world’s religious leaders to join him in Assisi in October 2011, in a joint prayer for peace.

During his Angelus audience on Sunday, January 1, the Pope announced plans for an inter-faith gathering to mark the 25th anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Peace organized at Assisi by Pope John Paul II.

Then-Cardinal Ratzinger had expressed serious reservations about the 1986 gathering at Assisi, and chose not to take part in the inter-faith event. But with religious violence flaring around the world, the Pope said that it is time for honest religious leaders “solemnly to renew the commitment of believers of all religions to live their religious faith as a service to the cause of peace.”

Pope Benedict announced his plans for the Assisi pilgrimage during an Angelus address in which he strongly emphasized the need for a positive appreciation of religious freedom. The recognition of religious freedom is a precondition for peace, he said, explaining:

Today we are witnessing two opposing tendencies, two equally negative extremes: on the one hand laicism which deviously seeks to marginalize religion and confine it to the private sphere and, on the other, fundamentalism which seeks to impose it on everyone by use of force.
Wherever religious freedom is effectively recognized the dignity of the human being is respected at its roots and, through a sincere search for truth and goodness, moral conscience is fortified and the institutions of civil coexistence strengthened. For this reason religious freedom is the highway to follow to build peace.

Earlier in the day, the Holy Father had presided at Mass in St. Peter’s basilica for the feast of Mary, the Mother of God. In his homily during that Mass, the Pontiff underlined the main theme of his message for the World Day of Peace, celebrated on the same day. Religious freedom, he said, must be honored if the world is to know true peace. When religious freedom is denied, he added, other fundamental human rights suffer as well, and peace is jeopardized.

The Pope observed that “in the face of the logic of war which unfortunately has not yet been completely overcome, only God can profoundly touch the human soul and ensure hope and peace for humankind.” Referring to his World Day of Peace message, he said:

The world needs God. It needs universal, shared ethical and spiritual values, and religion can offer a precious contribution to their pursuit, for the building of a just and peaceful social order at the national and international levels.

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  • Posted by: Justin8110 - Jan. 03, 2011 9:27 PM ET USA

    Unfortunately our Holy Father does not see things the way many of the Popes of yesteryear saw things. Religious freedom without the True Religion may build an ephemeral peace in the short term but it cannot build it in the long term. I understand that he is trying to smooth over problems that should be addressed but as the Vicar of Christ I would expect that he would unapologetically preach that without the True Church and the social reign of Christ the King their will be no peace.

  • Posted by: Salome - Jan. 03, 2011 7:39 PM ET USA

    I do hope he hasn't gone soft.

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