Pope Francis will take part in the final meeting of the World Day of Prayer for Peace when he travels to Assisi today Tuesday, 20 September. The World Day of Prayer for Peace concludes a 3-day event organized by the Sant’Egidio Community entitled Thirst of Peace: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue. It has involved the participation of over 450 religious leaders of different faiths gathered to pray for peace and strengthen dialogue in the spirit of Assisi.
The first “World Day of Prayer for Peace of Assisi” was held by Pope Saint John Paul II in October 1986 and it was the first time such an event had occurred. Major religious leaders, including the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop of Canterbury, joined with the Pope to call for peace, unity, and interreligious understanding.
Saint John Paul II closed that meeting with the call “Let’s keep spreading the message of Peace and living the spirit of Assisi” and since then the community of Sant’Egidio has sought to fulfill that message by convening an annual meeting of religious leaders to discuss critical global issues of peace, unity, and interreligious dialogue.
Upon his arrival in Assisi, Pope Francis will be greeted by a group of faith leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The day will include afternoon prayer in Saint Francis’ basilica and the Vatican has announced that the religious leaders will also meet “victims of war”.
The Pope will meet religious leaders and others individually including two Jewish and Muslim leaders and the event will conclude with a signing of an appeal for peace that will then be handed to children representing different parts of the globe.
The Bishop of Assisi, Domenico Sorrentino said the event takes place in a historic moment for peace-building as we witness so many situations of war, terrorism and widespread violence.
Bishop Sorrentino said the meeting is a great occasion to bring people together: “believers in all the religions together in this moment in which the world is facing big crises every day”.
And quoting Pope Francis he said a third world war is being fought piecemeal and that this meeting is an occasion for grace, “Because we are together not only to reflect, but also to pray, each one according to his own tradition. And we want to re-affirm the importance of faith, the importance of prayer, the importance of the grace of God if we really want to build a new world according to the values of God and of humanity based on peace” he said.