Monday, April 4, 2011
DAY OF REFLECTION, DIALOGUE AND PRAYER IN ASSISI
VATICAN CITY, 2 APR 2011 (VIS) – The Holy See Press Office today published the following English-language communique:
“On 1 January 2011, after the Angelus, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he wished to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the historic meeting that took place in Assisi on 27 October 1986, at the wish of the Venerable Servant of God John Paul II. On the day of the anniversary, 27 October this year, the Holy Father intends to hold a ‘Day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world’, making a pilgrimage to the home of St. Francis and inviting fellow Christians from different denominations, representatives of the world’s religious traditions and, in some sense, all men and women of good will, to join him once again on this journey.
“The Day will take as its theme: ‘Pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace’. Every human being is ultimately a pilgrim in search of truth and goodness. Believers too are constantly journeying towards God: hence the possibility, indeed the necessity, of speaking and entering into dialogue with everyone, believers and unbelievers alike, without sacrificing one’s own identity or indulging in forms of syncretism. To the extent that the pilgrimage of truth is authentically lived, it opens the path to dialogue with the other, it excludes no-one and it commits everyone to be a builder of fraternity and peace. These are the elements that the Holy Father wishes to place at the centre of reflection.
“For this reason, as well as representatives of Christian communities and of the principal religious traditions, some figures from the world of culture and science will be invited to share the journey – people who, while not professing to be religious, regard themselves as seekers of the truth and are conscious of a shared responsibility for the cause of justice and peace in this world of ours”.
The communique affirms that “the delegations will set off from Rome by train on the morning of 27 October, together with the Holy Father. Upon arrival in Assisi, they will make their way to the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, where the previous meetings will be recalled and the theme of the Day will be explored in greater depth. Leaders of some of the delegations present will make speeches and the Holy Father will likewise deliver an address”.
There will then be a simple lunch, followed by a moment of silence for individual reflection and prayer. Later, all those present in Assisi will make a “pilgrimage” to the Basilica of Saint Francis, “in silence, leaving room for personal meditation and prayer”. The final part of the Day will include “a solemn renewal of the joint commitment to peace”.
“In preparation for this Day, Pope Benedict XVI will preside over a prayer vigil at St. Peter’s the previous evening, together with the faithful of the diocese of Rome. Particular Churches and communities throughout the world are invited to organise similar times of prayer”.
The communique concludes by highlighting that “the Pope asks the Catholic faithful to join him in praying for the celebration of this important event and he is grateful to all those who will be able to be present in St. Francis’ home town to share this spiritual pilgrimage”.
OP/ VIS 20110404 (560)
Published by VIS – Holy See Press Office – Monday, April 04, 2011
Just last night, at the last session of our Anima Education “Christian Traditions” course, we were looking at a Vatican TV production of the history of ecumenical engagement (“Ut Unum Sint”). It had quite a bit of footage of both the 1986 and 2000 meetings in Assisi. I told the class that it would be interesting to see how Pope Benedict would arrange the upcoming meeting in October, given his criticism of the John Paul II events.
I think it most notable that in the BXVI format of the pilgrimage, we have:
1) “figures from the world of culture and science” included – this places the emphasis of the meeting on cultural expression rather than religious truth – particularly notable given that at the beginning of his pontificate, the Holy Father temporarily combined the role of the President for the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the President for the Pontifical Council for Culture.
2) “the previous meetings will be recalled and the theme of the Day will be explored in greater depth”: this indicates that the upfront-vocal-guest-star-speaker focus (to give it a broad description) will be in a dialogue session rather than in the actual prayers offered by of the various participants
3) The prayer aspect of the pilgrimage is described in two places as “a moment of silence for individual reflection and prayer” and, in the Basilica of Saint Francis, a “silence, leaving room for personal meditation and prayer”. In otherwords, no one will be offering any ceremony or rite from their religious tradition. All will be together in silence.
For an example of the latter model of interfaith prayer, one could recall the moment of silence Pope Benedict spent side by side with the Grand Mufti of Turkey in the Blue Mosque on his visit to Constantinople. Silent prayer, as a valid way of “praying together”, is in fact suggested by the Archdiocese of Melbourne’s “Promoting Interfaith Relations” guidelines.
The suggestion that there be a vigil at St Peter’s the previous day to prepare for the meeting is also, I think, significant. This in fact might provide a model for the other religious groups as well. Each should gather in their own place with their own people on the night before to offer prayers in their own way, before travelling together to the place of pilgrimage in the morning to offer silent prayer in the way that one is able.
I think this is a model that could be recreated in various places in conjunction with the October 27 event in Assisi. It is significantly different from the previous Assisi engagements.