Interreligious Dialogue Crucial Today, John Paul II Says

Papal Message to Leaders Meeting in Spain

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BARCELONA, Spain, SEPT. 4, 2001 ( John Paul II encouraged religious leaders toward dialogue, saying, “In a visible way you show how to overcome one of the most delicate frontiers of our time.”

The Pope made his point in a message sent to a gathering of religious leaders at the 15th International Meeting of Prayer, which ended here Tuesday.

“Dialogue among the different religions not only averts the deadly ghost of religious wars, which bathed in blood so many periods of mankind´s history, but above all it establishes firmer peace conditions,” the Pontiff stated in his message.

The message, read to some 150 religious leaders seated on a platform in front of the Barcelona cathedral, as well as to 2,500 people in the square, made a clear proposal: “As believers, we all have a weighty, but also passionate and urgent duty: The name of the one God must become more and more, as it is, a name of peace and an imperative of peace.”

“I took this dream upon myself when, in October 1986, I invited to Assisi my Christian brothers and the representatives of the great world religions to pray for peace: one beside the other, no more one against the other,” the Pope wrote.

“I had somehow a great vision before my eyes: all the people of the world were walking from different places of the earth to gather in front of the one God as a single family,” John Paul II revealed. “On that memorable evening, in the birthplace of St. Francis, that dream became reality: it was the first time that the representatives of the different world religions met together.”

The Barcelona meeting, held from Sept. 2-4, was, in fact, the 15th of these gatherings, which began in Assisi, and which the Pope described as a “sign of the times, as the blessed and venerated John XXIII would say.”

On this occasion, there were 600 representatives of various creeds united in the motto: “On the Frontiers of Dialogue: Religions and Civilizations in the New Century.”

Before bidding the participants farewell, the Pontiff made an appeal for full unity among Christians.

“Let the third millennium be that one of unity around the one Lord: Jesus Christ,” he said. “We can no more bear the scandal of division: It is like continuing to say ´no´ to God´s love. Let us give voice to the strength of the love he showed to us, so that we dare walk together.”

On Tuesday afternoon, the Christian leaders joined in an ecumenical service in the Church of Santa Maria del Pi, crowded with faithful, and later went to St. Jaume Square to meet with delegations of other confessions, which had also prayed for peace in various parts of the old city.

The religious leaders walked in procession from the square to the cathedral, where they were awaited by, among others, Jordi Pujol, president of the Generalitat of Catalonia; Joan Clos, mayor of Barcelona, and lines of cardinals, non-Catholic ministers, rabbis, imams, Buddhist monks and Shintoist dignitaries.

The Pontiff´s letter was read in the cathedral, as was the final manifesto for peace, signed by all the religious leaders who participated in the summit.

Andrea Riccardi, founder of Sant´Egidio Community, the Catholic movement that organizes these meetings, listed the critical areas in the world in need of peace, including Africa, Europe, the Holy Land, and the Mediterranean coast.

During the closing ceremony, Jordi Pujol also referred to world conflicts: “History tells us that in the worst conflicts, the longest and cruelest, there is a moment when possibilities for a solution appear. However, they are usually short, fleeting moments, of which advantage must be taken.”

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