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No joint prayer at Assisi, says cardinal

By on Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Basilica of St Francis in Assisi (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Basilica of St Francis in Assisi (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

More than 300 delegates from dozens of Christian churches, the world’s major religions and non-believers will join Pope Benedict XVI in Assisi next week for a peace gathering focused more on common pilgrimage than on prayer, a Vatican official has said.

For the first time, a Buddhist delegation from mainland China will join a Vatican-sponsored interreligious meeting and, also for the first time, three non-believers – two 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 at a news conference.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said each participant would be given a room in a Franciscan guesthouse where he or she could rest, reflect and pray after lunch and before an afternoon pilgrimage.

“During the pilgrimage, the walk, in silence,” the participants are likely to pray, but “the real prayer will be here at St Peter’s on the vigil [next Wednesday, October 26] when the Holy Father is with the Catholic faithful.”

Instead of holding his weekly general audience, 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 religions.

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.

However, the prestigious Muslim university, al-Azhar in Cairo, will not be sending a delegation. Archbishop Celata said the Vatican’s formal dialogue with the university remains “frozen” after leaders there complained that Pope Benedict was interfering in Egypt’s internal affairs when he condemned attacks on Christians late last year. The archbishop said he also thought the current upheaval in Egypt’s national life could be part of the reason why the university will not participate; the leader of al-Azhar was appointed by ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

The Assisi gathering will include 31 separate Christian delegations, according to Fr Andrea Palmieri, an official at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The 17 Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox delegations will include Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

Also participating are Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Rev Olav Fykse Tveit, a Lutheran minister and secretary-general of the World Council of Churches.

Other delegates will represent traditional religions of Native Americans, Africans and Asians; Hindu, Sikh, Zoroastrian, Bahai, Confucian, Taoist, Shinto delegations will also participate.

  • Dfitton55

    To those who read this I draw your attention to this critique of Assisi:

    http://www.sspx.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=370:the-renewal-of-the-scandal-of-assisi-by-fr-r-de-cacqueray&catid=100:interviews&Itemid=69

    May the Immaculate Heart triumph over this Apostasy!

  • Anonymous

    If the leaders of the various cults and sects are going to Assisi to join the Pope in not praying, and if the Pope is not going to point out to them the error of their ways and urge them all to undergo Baptism into the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, then it seems like a quite pointless exercise.

    I don’t suppose they will spend their time there fasting.

    Why don’t they all stay at home and put their travel expenses towards something worthwhile such as disaster relief, for example?

    Dfitton55: We have Our Lady’s promise that: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph” – so fear not.  It will.

  • Brian A Cook

    The last time I checked, the Pope did not have to “point out to them the error of their ways and urge them all to undergo Baptism” with every breath he takes.  Are workers for Catholic charities suppose to do that with every breath they take when they work with non-Christians?  I doubt that.  The last time I checked, the pastors of the Church are also to witness to the Prince of Peace by helping build peace.   The last time I checked, reaching out to human beings, building bridges, and working with human beings to build peace was not apostasy.

    Frankly, comments like the first two posted make me question whether I should bother searching on this website for real insight again.  I may never post here again, though I’ll have to think about it. 

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    Before you decide to abandon the Herald blogs, could I suggest that you read through page 10 of the current (August) edition of Catholic Truth to see if agree with the Popes quoted there, each and every one of whom expounded authentic Catholic doctrine about ecumenism… http://www.catholictruthscotland.com/AUGUSTNewsletter11.pdf

    When you’ve read those several but short and to the point quotes, you will have to make a decision. Either they (and every other pope in the history of the Church prior to Vatican II) were wrong, or Popes JPII and Benedict are wrong.  They simply cannot ALL be right.

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    THEY won’t be fasting, leprechaun, but I was most edified today to speak to a young mother of three small children, who WILL be fasting tomorrow.  She and her husband are also planning to pray the fifteen decades of the Rosary in reparation for this terrible scandal.  So, leppy, us Scots, we’re not ALL bad!

  • Anonymous

    Brian A Cook,

    My post is about the Assisi assembly, and a chance for the Pope to win more souls for Jesus.  I do not understand how your mind equates this one-in-twenty-five-year opportunity to “with every breath he takes“.

    Our Lord charged Peter with the task: “Feed My sheep” which to my way of thinking means to feed them with the gospel news and to nourish their souls with the grace of baptism to start them on the road to eternal life.  Nobody is suggesting that seeking peace is apostacy, but what good would it do to have everybody all smiling along together if they were all still outside the Church due to lack of spiritual feeding?

    There are nuggets of gold in the Catholic Herald web site (and we offer our grateful thanks to those who make it possible) but if your judgement is such that you cannot see them even when they jump up and bite your nose, then, yes, maybe you would be better off with “The Dandy” or “The Beano” – although the last time I checked they did not support blogging facilities.

  • Wee Jock

    Have we become so blinded by false ecumenism that we can think that any worship by pagans, Jews, and Muslims is a good thing? It is displeasing to God. This the infallible teaching of the Catholic Church and it cannot be changed by the non-infallible statements of the post-conciliar Popes. 

    We do not need a peace that will consist merely in acts of external or formal courtesy, but a peace which will penetrate the souls of men and which will unite, heal, and reopen their hearts to that mutual affection which is born of brotherly love. The peace of Christ is the only peace answering this description… Nor is there any other peace possible than that which Christ gave to His disciples – Pius XI 

  • Mariano Barrientos

    Is the change happening, are our catholic leaders truly opening their heart  and arms to ecumenism? Lord bless the ones open to your message

  • Anonymous

    Good thinking :) !

    A taste of what happened:

    wdtprs.com/blog/2011/10/pagan-chant-to-the-deity-olokun-in-the-basilica-of-st-francis-during-assisi-iii/

  • Inquisator

    Brian,
    To be honest, I thought this site was going to be enlightening, encouraging and interesting. Instead I find it to be so black & white, ultra traditional, illogical and irrational in both sentiment and faith-view that now I just visit it for its humour value.