Cardinal Turkson on Assisi Event: Religions Key to Peace

Movements Join Curia in Promoting Pilgrimage

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ROME, JULY 13, 2011 ( The president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is joining his voice to those who have clarified Benedict XVI’s hopes for the October meeting in Assisi, saying that religious communities must join forces to fight against causes of injustice.

The Pope will gather in St. Francis’ city with representatives of the world’s religions and non-believers at an event that is titled «Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace.»

The meeting follows upon two similar events hosted by Blessed John Paul II. All three of the meetings have caused a stir among certain ecclesial circles, with some people accusing the Popes of syncretism, or giving the impression that all religions are equal.

Benedict XVI’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, has already offered a public explanation of the event; and the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada, also gave a clarification.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the justice and peace council, has joined in with an article in L’Osservatore Romano.

He said any interreligious dialogue has to be «in full respect of the differences and diversity of traditions.» But different religions are called together to «transform mentalities and structures,» he said, proposing the defense of the right to life as a priority for common effort.

«To speak of the commitment of religious communities to justice and peace means to evoke their cooperation for the common good of society, in the framework of their dialogue,» Cardinal Turkson wrote. «The cultures and religions of the world all have a patrimony of values and spiritual riches to share with others, which can be considered as a preparation for Christ.»

Cardinal Turkson acknowledged that theological or doctrinal dialogue is not always possible, but that «on the plane of life and works» there are opportunities to work and speak together.

«Dialogue implies that the interlocutors receive and accept one another in their specificity, with their riches and weaknesses,» explained the cardinal. «It is the master way of dialogue and of cooperation at the service of the common good: to respect the other without leaving his identity aside though seeking to understand him.»

Cardinal Turkson said the faithful of different religions are called to «join forces to reinforce solidarity and fraternity between peoples, fighting especially against the causes of injustice and working to transform mentalities and structures that, unfortunately, are often bearers of sin.»

«Suffice it to think of violence against the right to life which is spread and encouraged by an anti-birth mentality through many ways: contraception, abortion, legislation opposed to birth, sterilizations encouraged in poor countries by some NGOs, coercive birth control, euthanasia,» he said.

Hence, the cardinal stated, «it is important that «religious communities — in the name of God, source, author and final end of life — join forces to criticize this mentality in all ambits and to commit themselves to the promotion and defense of life from its conception until natural death.»


Along with the unified voice of the curia, leaders of ecclesial movements are also adding their perspectives on the value of the Assisi meeting.

Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio, offered a statement Tuesday.

He proposed that it «is useful to look at the path marked out by Benedict XVI with his encounters from the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, to the Synagogue in Rome and which, in October 2011 will reach Assisi.»

Riccardi cited the Holy Father speaking in 2007, when he said, «We are all called to work for peace and to be effectively committed to furthering reconciliation among peoples. This is the true ‘spirit of Assisi’ which opposes every form of violence and the abuse of religion as a pretext for violence.»

«The logic of fighting is not the future of humanity,» the founder added. «We need to direct hearts and minds not towards a clash of civilizations, but towards the civility of living together. … This is the challenge of Assisi but it is also a challenge of living together in peace amongst people of different traditions and identities.

«In the difficult crossroads of history, the Catholic Church, while it witnesses its faith in Jesus Christ, serves the unity of nations hoping to encourage a sense of the holiness of peace and of human life in the hearts of followers of all religions.»


Maria Voce, president of the Focolare Movement, offered her reflection today.

She emphasized that it is the Holy Spirit «who guides history in this great design of unity, despite the many shadows which fall across our planet.»

Voce added that dialogue cannot be restricted to Assisi: «Today, dialogue between religions cannot be limited only to leaders, scholars and specialists. It must become a dialogue of the people, a dialogue of life. We meet Christians and Muslims everywhere who are testament to the fact that one can progress from fear of the other to the discovery of the other and contribute to a peaceful living together in their cities.»

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Riccardi’s statement:

Voce’s statement:

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