Assisi + 15: A Peace Meeting Opens in Barcelona

Event Draws from All Faiths

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BARCELONA, Spain, SEPT. 2, 2001 ( The 15th World Meeting of «Men and Religions,» organized by Rome´s Sant´Egidio Community, began today with a crowded Mass in Barcelona´s Basilica of St. Mary of the Sea.

The motto of these meetings is «The Frontiers of Dialogue: Religions and Civilizations in the New Century.»

The event attracts representatives of all religions and world political leaders for the purpose of opening the doors to peace, through dialogue among all.

This annual event is a continuation of the Day of Prayer for Peace, convoked by John Paul II in Assisi in 1986.

Among the participants at today´s event were leaders of the Orthodox and Protestant churches; many other personalities, including Andrea Riccardi, founder of Sant´Egidio, a Catholic movement that started in 1968 and now has 30,000 members in 45 countries.

During the homily, Cardinal Ricard Maria Carles, archbishop of Barcelona, urged the faithful not «fall into the spirit of Babel, or the spirit of power, but the spirit of humility. Not to seek emulation or superiority, but to be the voice of the poor, the marginalized, and the abandoned — the poor in material and spiritual goods.»

The official inauguration of the meeting took place in the afternoon in the Gran Teatro del Liceo. It was presided over by Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, representing the Holy See.

The Barcelona meeting has attracted Meir Lau, chief rabbi of Israel; Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity; Orthodox Bishop Innokentij of the Moscow Patriarchate; Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Oriental Churches; and Abbot Josep Maria Soler of the Monastery of Montserrat. Round tables begin Monday.

Mario Marazziti, spokesman of Sant´Egidio Community, and an organizer of the meeting, explained at the opening session: «Unending wars, nationalist ethnic temptations, and the fear of dialogue — given this panorama, it is a historic occasion that religions meet and together say: ´This third millennium must be characterized by dialogue; dialogue is our planet´s need in this phase of globalization.´ And the initiative comes from the heart of the Catholic Church.»

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