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No war is holy, pope says at interreligious peace gathering in Assisi

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ASSISI, Italy — Violence in the name of God does not represent the true nature of religion and must be condemned by all faiths, Pope Francis said. Read more »

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Pope Francis, religious leaders pray for peace at Assisi prayer service

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Catholic News Service

ASSISI, Italy — Jesus’ cry of thirst on the cross is heard today in the cries of innocent victims of war in the world, Pope Francis said.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, Pope Francis, an unidentified clergyman and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, England, attend an ecumenical prayer service with other Christian leaders in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, Sept. 20. The pope and other religious leaders participated in the service that marked the 30th anniversary of St. John Paul IIís Assisi interfaith peace gathering. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, Pope Francis, an unidentified clergyman and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, England, attend an ecumenical prayer service with other Christian leaders in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, Sept. 20. The pope and other religious leaders participated in the service that marked the 30th anniversary of St. John Paul IIís Assisi interfaith peace gathering. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Christians are called to contemplate Christ in “the voice of the suffering, the hidden cry of the little innocent ones to whom the light of this world is denied,”” the pope said Sept. 20 at a prayer service in Assisi with other Christian leaders, including Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury.

Far too often the victims of war “encounter the deafening silence of indifference, the selfishness of those annoyed at being pestered, the coldness of those who silence their cry for help with the same ease with which television channels are changed,” the pope said in his meditation.

The pope arrived in the morning by helicopter and was whisked away to the Sacred Convent near the Basilica of St. Francis.

After arriving in a blue Volkswagen, the pope raised his arms to embrace Patriarch Bartholomew and, together, the two greeted the other religious leaders present. Archbishop Welby, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of Antioch and leaders of the Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist communities also welcomed the pope to Assisi.

Several refugees were among those who greeted the pope, including a young Yezidi woman from Iraq’s Sinjar district who survived the August 2014 massacre committed by the Islamic State. “I want to thank you for praying for the Yezidis and your support for acknowledging our genocide,” she told the pope.

“You have suffered a lot. I pray, I will pray for you with all my heart,” the pope said as he placed his hand over his heart.

After having lunch with a dozen refugees and victims of war, Pope Francis and the Christian leaders went to pray in the lower Basilica of St. Francis. Members of other religions went to different locations in Assisi to offer prayers for peace in their own traditions.

During the solemn celebration, prayers were offered for countries where violence and conflicts continue to cause suffering for innocent men, women and children.

One by one, several young men and women placed lit candles in a round stand as an acolyte read the names of each country, including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Nigeria and Ukraine.

The prayer service began with a Liturgy of the Word, which included a meditation after each reading.

Reflecting on the first reading from the prophet Isaiah, Archbishop Welby said that the world today “struggles to distinguish between what something costs and what it is worth.”

Despite this, God responds with “infinite love and mercy” and offers to receive from him freely because “in God’s economy we are the poorest of the poor; poorer than ever because we think ourselves rich,” he said.

“Our money and wealth is like the toy money in a children’s game: It may buy goods in our human economies which seem so powerful, but in the economy of God it is worthless. We are only truly rich when we accept mercy from God, through Christ our Savior,” he said.

Christians are called to be rich in God’s mercy by listening to him in the voice of the poor, by partaking in the Eucharist, by coming to him through his mercy.

“We are to be those who enable others to be merciful to those with whom they are in conflict. We are called to be Christ’s voice to the hopeless, calling, ‘come to the waters’ in a world of drought and despair, giving away with lavish generosity what we have received in grace-filled mercy,” Archbishop Welby said.

Patriarch Bartholomew commented on the second reading from the book of Revelation in which God calls “all who are thirsty come: all who want it may have the water of life, and have it free.”

Christians from around the world, he said, answered God’s call in Assisi “to invoke the Lord for the greatest of his gifts, peace, from him, the king of peace.”

Jesus comes to all who thirst for peace, he continued. However, Christians must experience an inner conversion in order to listen to him through “the cry of our neighbor,” to experience a true conversion and to give prophetic witness through fellowship.

“Then we shall offer living water to the thirsty, endless water, water of peace to a peaceless world, water that is prophecy, and all shall listen to Jesus, who will thrice say: ‘Surely I am coming soon,’” Patriarch Bartholomew said.

In his meditation, Pope Francis reflected on Jesus’ words on the cross, “I thirst,” which he said was not only a thirst for water but also for love.

Like St. Francis of Assisi who was upset by the reality that “love is not loved,” the pope said Christians are called to contemplate Christ Crucified in those “who thirst for love.”

He also recalled the example of St. Teresa of Kolkata, who asked that all Missionaries of Charity houses have Jesus’ words, “I thirst,” inscribed in their chapels next to the crucifix.

“Her response was to quench Jesus’ thirst for love on the cross through service to the poorest of the poor,” Pope Francis said. “The Lord’s thirst is indeed quenched by our compassionate love; he is consoled when, in his name, we bend down to another’s suffering.”

In response to Jesus’ thirst, he said, Christians are challenged to hear the cry of the poor, suffering and the innocent victims of war.

Those who “live under the threat of bombs” and are forced to flee from their homes are “the wounded and parched members of his body,” he said. “They thirst.”

However, all too often they are offered only “the bitter vinegar of rejection.”

Pope Francis called on Christians to be “trees of life that absorb the contamination of indifference and restore the pure air of love to the world.”

“From the side of Christ on the cross water flowed, that symbol of the Spirit who gives life so that, from us, his faithful compassion may flow forth for all who thirst today,” the pope said.

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Archbishop of Canterbury: Failure of ecumenism would imprison mercy

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Catholic News Service

ASSISI, Italy — Churches that are not reconciled with one another weaken the experience of mercy that unites believers to God and with each other, Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury said.

By not reconciling with one other, “our worship is diminished and our capacity to grow close together with God

Pope Francis exchanges greetings with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, England, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, as he arrives for an interfaith peace gathering at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, Sept. 20. The peace gathering marks the 30th anniversary of the first peace encounter in Assisi in 1986. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis exchanges greetings with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, England, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, as he arrives for an interfaith peace gathering at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, Sept. 20. The peace gathering marks the 30th anniversary of the first peace encounter in Assisi in 1986. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

is reduced,” he said Sept. 20 in Assisi during a discussion on ecumenism.

“The failure of ecumenism imprisons mercy and prevents its liberation and its power with one another,” he said.

Speaking before Pope Francis arrived in Assisi for an interreligious peace meeting, Archbishop Welby joined other Christian leaders exploring how love, charity and mercy help foster peace and unity among Christian denominations.

Mercy is the “engine of reconciliation,” Archbishop Welby said, and it is “the source of our capacity for the evangelization of the world in which we live.”

“Mercy begins with the mercy that each of us experiences in the sacrament of reconciliation; the knowledge that we ourselves are accepted,” he said.

Suffering and martyrdom, the archbishop added, also unite Christians and are a visible sign of ecumenism for the world.

“If we do not suffer together, we do not know the meaning of the ecumenism of mercy,” he said. “When they kill us, they do not ask if we are Anglican, Presbyterian, Catholic or Orthodox; we are one in Christ for them. So why are we divided when they are not killing us?”

Echoing Jesus’ prayer “that they may be one so that the world may know that I come from the Father,” Archbishop Welby said that the evangelization of the world “depends on that ecumenism of mercy.”

While they may have theological differences, he said, Christians must learn to “disagree well” and “learn to love one another with good disagreement.”

Evangelization depends on the visible sign of love and unity. If not, churches will be unable “to carry out Jesus’ command to go out into the world,” he said.

“It depends on the world seeing visibly that we belong to one another and that we love one another,” Archbishop Welby said. “Without that, we have nothing to say to a world that is incapable of resolving its own differences.”

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Forgive others and find peace, Pope Francis says at Assisi

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ASSISI, Italy — Celebrating how God’s mercy has been experienced for 800 years in a tiny stone church in Assisi, Pope Francis said people need to experience God’s forgiveness and start learning how to forgive others. Read more »

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World expects believers to work together for peace, Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The world expects all people of religious faith to work with everyone for a better future, Pope Francis told representatives of major religions.

Pope Francis poses for a selfie with a member of the inter-religious community during his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 28. (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

Pope Francis poses for a selfie with a member of the inter-religious community during his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Oct. 28. (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

“We can walk together taking care of each other and of creation” in joint projects that fight poverty, war and corruption and help people live in dignity, he told them during a special general audience dedicated to interreligious dialogue.

The audience in St. Peter’s Square Oct. 28 marked the 50th anniversary of “Nostra Aetate,” the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on relations with other religions; the audience also recalled the historic first World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, Italy, Oct. 27, 1986.

“The flame, lit in Assisi, spread to the whole world and marks a permanent sign of peace,” Pope Francis said in his address.

The rain-soaked square was awash with color as thousands gathered under colorful umbrellas or plastic ponchos. Large groups of people came from other Christian communities and from other world religions and many held aloft olive branches. Representatives of many religious traditions sat in a VIP section near the pope and prayed in silence with him at the end of the audience.

Inviting the thousands gathered in the square to pray according to their own religious tradition, the pope said, “Let us ask the Lord to make us be more like brothers and sisters, and more like servants to our brothers and sisters in need.”

In his written address, the pope said, “The world looks to us believers, it urges us to collaborate with each other and people of goodwill who do not profess any religion, it asks from us effective responses to many issues: peace, hunger, poverty,” the environmental and economic crises, corruption, moral decay and violence, especially that waged in the name of religion.

Religions don’t have a special “recipe” to solve these problems, he said, “but we have a great resource, prayer. Prayer is our treasure,” which believers turn to in order to ask for those gifts people are yearning for.

Concerning the future of interreligious dialogue, he said, “the first thing we have to do is pray. Without the Lord, nothing is possible; with him, everything becomes” possible.

He asked that prayer lead people to follow the will of God, who wants everyone to recognize each other as brothers and sisters and to form a “great human family in a harmony of diversity.”

Unfortunately, much of the violence and terrorism unfolding in the world have made people suspicious or critical of religion, he said.

However, “although no religion is immune from the risk of fundamentalist or extremist deviations,” he said, people must look at the positive aspects of religious beliefs, especially how they are a source of hope for so many.

Pope Francis said respectful dialogue can lead to friendship and concrete initiatives between religious believers in serving the poor, the elderly, the marginalized and immigrants.

In fact, the upcoming Year of Mercy is the perfect occasion to work together on charitable projects, he said.

Charity, “where compassion especially counts, can unite with us many people who do not consider themselves to be believers or who are seeking God and truth,” and with anyone who makes those in need a priority, he said.

The pope also praised the profound improvements in Jewish-Christian relations. He said the past 50 years have seen indifference and conflict turn into collaboration and goodwill, and enemies and strangers have become friends and family.

Mutual understanding, respect and esteem make up the only path for fruitful dialogue, not only with Jews, but with Muslims as well, he said.

“The dialogue we need has to be open and respectful,” he said, and includes respecting people’s right to life, physical integrity and fundamental freedoms like freedom of conscience, thought, expression and religion.

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Among Assisi participants, a sense of wider crisis in society

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Catholic News Service

ASSISI, Italy — A common thread ran through many of the speeches and invocations of this year’s “prayer for peace” encounter in Assisi: the uneasy sense that the world is facing not merely conflicts and wars, but a much broader crisis that affects social and cultural life in every country.

Environmental damage, the rich-poor divide, erosion of cultural traditions, terrorism and new threats to society’s weakest members were cited as increasingly worrisome developments by speakers at the interfaith gathering in the Italian pilgrimage town Oct. 27.

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Pope condemns use of religion to promote violence

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Catholic News Service

ASSISI, Italy — Taking 300 religious leaders with him on pilgrimage to Assisi, Pope Benedict XVI said people who are suspicious of religion cannot be blamed for questioning God’s existence when they see believers use religion to justify violence.

“All their struggling and questioning is, in part, an appeal to believers to purify their faith so that God, the true God, becomes accessible,” the pope said Oct. 27 during an interfaith gathering in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels.

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Pope prays Assisi pilgrimage will foster dialogue, peace

October 26th, 2011 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI prayed that his interreligious pilgrimage to Assisi Oct. 27 would promote dialogue among believers of different faiths and help the world move toward peace and reconciliation.

“In a world still torn by hatred, divisions, selfishness and wars, we want to pray that tomorrow’s meeting in Assisi would promote dialogue among people of different religions,” the pope said Oct. 26 during a prayer service at the Vatican.

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