CNS PHOTO | MAURIZIO BRAMBATTI, REUTERS
Pope Benedict lights a lamp in 2007 at the tomb of St. Francis in Assisi. The pope will go to Assisi with the other leaders of world religions later this month.
MUNICH — St. Francis of Assisi appeals to believers and nonbelievers alike because they long for a world where people see each other as brothers and sisters, said the superior of the Franciscan convent in Assisi.
Conventual Franciscan Father Giuseppe Piemontese, custodian of the Sacred Convent of St. Francis, also said humanity yearns for a world where creation is respected as a gift to all.
Piemontese was one of eight religious leaders who spoke about The Spirit of Assisi during an interreligious meeting last month. The meeting was sponsored by the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Rome-based lay movement.
To mark the 25th anniversary of Blessed John Paul II’s gathering with religious leaders in Assisi, Pope Benedict has convoked a new gathering in the Italian town Oct. 27.
Piemontese said the encounter will underline how important Blessed John Paul’s gathering was for promoting dialogue and collaboration among religions.
It also will be a “reminder of what still remains to be done” to ensure true collaboration, respect and mutual support among peoples, he said.
Holding the gathering in Assisi makes sense to people because St. Francis “incarnated those high aspects of humanity, simplicity, humility” that enable people to recognize each other as brothers and sisters, he said.
Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim of Aleppo, Syria, said marking the anniversary of the 1986 Assisi meeting “challenges us to reflect on these last 25 years.
They were brimming with fruitful experiences” and helped religious leaders “strengthen their faith and enrich their enthusiasm and enhance their collective vision.”
The Assisi gatherings, he said, are a reminder that “supplication to the Creator” is something that unites all faiths.
“We are all exhausted by the needless and endless wars around us. If the aim of our prayers is peace, then it is the loftiest of goals that we are aiming for,” he said.
CNS FILE PHOTO | KNA
Religious leaders will gather again in Assisi, Italy on October 27 to mark the 25th anniversary of 1986 interfaith prayer gathering.
Oded Wiener, director general of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, told those gathered in Munich, “The darkness and violence cannot be chased away with sticks (and) certainly not with knives and guns.”
Only “the light of faith and the light of positive action on the part of religious leaders” will bring peace, Wiener said.
“This is, in fact, the spirit of Assisi,” he said.
“Religious leaders and their views are of unique importance and strongly influence the interreligious mosaic,” he said.
“At many events, we have found that where politicians and statesmen have failed, religious leaders have succeeded in inflaming or calming down various groups.”
Gijun Sugitani, a leader of Japan’s Tendai Buddhist movement, said that after the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended — events that occurred after the first Assisi meeting — “people expected the swift arrival of world peace.”
Instead, he said, there have been new conflicts based on ethnicity, ideology and rage.
Returning to Assisi in October is important, he said, because “we have a responsibility to spread the spirit of Assisi that transcends differences between the ethnicities and religions and unites us all.”
Mohammed Amine Smaili, a Moroccan professor of Muslim dogma and comparative religion, told the gathering that the 1986 Assisi meeting “marked a decisive and memorable about-face in our history.”
The world’s religions established a consensus at Assisi that dialogue is the only way that humanity can understand itself, he said.
Religious leaders, he said, “must speak of the holiness of peace and the curse of disrespect and hatred.”