Praying for Peace in Assisi

Author: Pope John Paul II

In his General Audience on Wednesday, 22 October 1986, the Holy Father continued his interruption in his catechesis on original sin to speak of his upcoming attendance at a gathering of representatives other Christian Churches and communities and other world religions at Assisi to pray for peace. 

1. As you know, next Monday, October 27, I will be in Assisi with many representatives of other Christian Churches and Communities and other world religions, in order to pray for peace.

It is undoubtedly a singular event, of a religious character, exclusively religious. This is how it has been conceived and in this perspective it will be developed with the collaboration of all the participants: it will be marked by prayer, fasting and pilgrimage. I trust that it is truly, with the grace of the Lord, a culminating moment of that "prayer movement for peace" that I predicted at the beginning of 1986, proclaimed "International Year of Peace" by the United Nations.

In Assisi, all the representatives of the Christian Churches and Communities and of the world's religions will be committed solely to invoking from God the great gift of peace.

2. I would like this fact, so important for the process of reconciliation of men with God and among themselves, to be seen and interpreted by all the children of the Church in the light of the Second Vatican Council and its teachings.

In fact, the Church has reflected a lot in the Council, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, on its position in a world increasingly marked by the meeting of cultures and religions.

According to the Council, the Church is increasingly aware of her mission and her duty, even her essential vocation to announce to the world the true salvation that is found only in Jesus Christ, God and man (cf. ad gentes , 11-3 ).

Yes, only in Christ can men be saved. "No one else can save, and under heaven no other name has been given to us that can save us" ( Act 4, 12). But, since from the beginning of history, all are ordained to Christ (cf. Lumen gentium , 16), who is truly faithful to God's call, to the extent that it is known to him, already participates in salvation accomplished by Christ (cf. ib ).

3. The Church, aware of the common vocation of humanity and of the only plan of salvation, feels united to each and every one, just as Christ "united himself in a certain way to each man" (cf. Gaudium et spes , 22; Enc. Redemptor hominis , passim).

And she proclaims to each and everyone that Christ is the center of the created world and of history.

Precisely because Christ is the center of everything in history and in the cosmos, and because no one "goes to the Father except through him" (cf. Jn 14:6), we can address other religions with an attitude woven at the same time of sincere respect and fervent testimony of Christ in whom we believe. Well, in them are the "semina Verbi", the "rays of the only truth" that the first Fathers of the Church spoke of, who lived and worked in the midst of paganism, and to which the Second Vatican Council refers, both in the Declaration Nostra aetate (n. 2), as in the Decree Ad Gentes (nn. 11, 18). We know what the limits of these religions are, but that does not at all mean that there are religious values ​​and qualities in them, Nostra aetate , 2).

4. These are precisely the "vestiges" or "seeds" of the Word and the "rays" of its truth. Among these is undoubtedly prayer, frequently accompanied by fasting, in addition to other penances and pilgrimage to holy places, surrounded by great veneration.

We respect this sentence, although we do not try to make our formulas express other visions of faith. Not even the others, for the rest, will want to make our prayers their own.

What will happen in Assisi will certainly not be religious syncretism, but a sincere attitude of prayer to God in mutual respect.

That is why the formula was chosen for the meeting in Assisi: to be together to pray.

Certainly one cannot "pray together", that is, make a common prayer, but one can be present when others pray; in this way we show our respect for the prayer of others and for the attitude of others before the Divinity; and at the same time we offer you the humble and sincere testimony of our faith in Christ, Lord of the universe.

This will be done in Assisi, where there will be, at one of the moments of the day, separate prayers, in different places, of the various religious representations. But later, in the square of the lower basilica of San Francisco, the prayers of the representatives of each religion will follow each other, clearly different one after another, while all the others will attend with the respectful attitude, internally and externally, of who is Witness the supreme effort of other men and women to seek God.

5. This "being together to pray" acquires a particularly deep and eloquent meaning insofar as we will be together to implore from God the gift that all of today's humanity most needs to survive: peace.

It is, therefore, the profound awareness that I have of the need for this gift for all, of its urgency and of the fact that it depends only on God, that has led me to address the other Christian Churches and the great religions of the world, which they share the same concern for the fate of man and show the same readiness to commit themselves to ask for peace with prayer.

The religions of the world, despite the fundamental differences that separate them, are all called to contribute to the birth of a more humane, more just, more fraternal world. After having many times been the cause of divisions, all of them would now like to play a decisive role in the construction of world peace. And we want to do this together. As my predecessor Paul VI already said in the Encyclical Ecclesiam suam : "...with them we want to promote and defend the ideals that may be common in the field of religious freedom, human fraternity, good culture, beneficence social and civil order" (n. 100).

In this spirit I have invited the Churches and religions to gather in Assisi. And in this same spirit the invitation has been accepted. The particular Churches in turn have everywhere associated themselves with this same initiative, often together with other Christian Churches and with representatives of other religions. This is how the great "prayer movement for peace", to which I referred on January 25 of this year, is carried out and spread.

October 27 will therefore be a day totally of prayer. This is his qualification, since "prayer, which is an expression in different ways of man's relationship with the living God, is also the first task and like the first announcement of the Pope, just as it is the first requirement of his service to the Church and to the world" (Speech at the Mentorella, October 23, 1978: L'Osservatore Romano , Spanish Language Edition, November 5, 1978, p. 11).

Prayer is the breath of the soul. Every worshiper of the living and true God believes in the immeasurable value of prayer and feels the need to pray burst forth from their own intimacy.

6. In Assisi Fray Francisco, poor and humble, will welcome us. He will welcome us with the fiery and illuminating energy of his seraphic personality that made him parallel to the sun and his native land to a new Orient (Dante, Paradise , XI, 50).

It will welcome us with the irresistible fascination of its unarmed and pacifying simplicity, capable of moving the most hidden areas of each heart.

He will welcome us with the tender and sublime accents of his Canticle, which alternates the stanzas of the reality of creatures with the lofty apex reached by praying lips when prayer becomes life and life becomes prayer: "Praised be my Lord ".

And from the mystical hill, the Franciscan greeting "Pax et bonum" will once again make its way along the paths of the world in the footsteps of new witnesses. To convince that peace is necessary, it is possible, it is a duty. That only she can guarantee the humanity of the two thousand a serene and laborious future.

I ask you to pray a lot for these great intentions: if from all human hearts the yearning for peace and universal brotherhood rises to the one God, united in a single great prayer, then we can never lack the confidence that He will listen to us: "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you" ( Lk 11:9).

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