VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 4, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Following is John Paul II´s message to the representatives of world religions who met this week in Barcelona, Spain, for the 15th International Meeting of Prayer for Peace.
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To H.E. Cardinal Roger Etchegaray
Emeritus President of the Pontifical Council
Iustitia et Pax and Cor Unum
I am glad to entrust to You the task of conveying my warm greetings to the illustrious Representatives of the great world Religions, gathered this year in Barcelona for the 15th International Meeting of Prayer on the theme: “On the Frontiers of Dialogue: Religions and Civilizations in the New Century”.
This meeting represents an important stage, not only for its having reached the 15th edition, but also because through it you wish to show the proper way to enter this new time. Not only the debates and the reflections held in these days, but above all your presence show to the world how good a thing it is to begin the XXI century with no disagreements but with a common vision: the dream of the unity of the human family.
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. In a world which was still divided in two blocks and lived under the fear of the nuclear war, I wished that everybody, young and grown-up people, women and men, would feel called upon to build a future of peace and prosperity. 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. On that memorable evening, in the birth-place of St. Francis, that dream became reality: it was the first time that the representatives of the different world Religions met together.
Fifteen years have passed since then. I take advantage of this occasion to deeply thank the Community of St. Egidio for having collected that initiative and for having spread it with hope, year after year, so that the efforts for peace would not vanish but would last, even though among many difficulties. These days are coming to their end in a brotherly climate that I called the “spirit of Assisi”. A deep friendship has ripened in these years, spreading itself to many parts of the world and bringing some fruits of peace. Many religious men and women have joined those first participants in the prayer and in the reflection. Non-believers, honestly searching for truth, also took part to these meeting, finding in dialogue a great help.
I thank God, full of mercy and grace, for the pathway of these years. I congratulate you all for this initiative. Men and women of the world have seen how you have learnt to be together and to pray, each one according to his own religious tradition, without confusion and with mutual respect, while keeping untouched and firm each one´s faith. In a society where people of different religions coexist, this meeting represents a sign of peace. Everybody can observe how, in this spirit, peace among people is no more a remote utopia.
Therefore I dare to say that these Meetings have become a “sign of the times”, as the blessed and venerated John XXIII would say. For the XXI century and for the third millennium, which is more and more marked by cultural and religious pluralism, this sign is all the more opportune, as the future will be enlightened, since its beginning, by fraternal dialogue and will be open to peaceful encounter. In a visible way you show how to overcome one of the most delicate frontiers of our time. In fact, 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” (Novo Millennio ineunte, 55), but above all it establishes firmer peace conditions. 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” (ibid.).
You have gathered in this beloved city of Catalonia which opens on the Mediterranean Sea and looks towards wider horizons. In these circumstances I address my fraternal greetings to the Archdiocese of Barcelona and to its well deserving Archbishop, Cardinal Ricardo Maria Carles Gordó, for having cooperated in the preparation of this Meeting. At the same time I send my cordial greeting also to the Generalitat of Catalonia and to its President, to the Municipality of Barcelona and to its Mayor, who made possible this praiseworthy initiative.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us “put out into deep waters” together in the ecumenical dialogue. Let the third millennium be that one of unity around the one Lord: Jesus Christ. 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. Together with you, dear Representatives of the great world Religions, we must “put out into deep waters”, into the great ocean of this world to help all the people to look up at the High, at the one God, father of all the peoples on earth; let us acknowledge that the differences among us must not lead us to conflict, but to respect, to fair cooperation and to the building of peace. We must all invest in dialogue and in love as the only pathways that enable us to respect everybody´s rights and to face the great challenges of the new millennium.
From the Vatican, 28 August 2001, St. Augustine´s Day
John Paul II
[text supplied by Vatican]