VATICAN CITY, JAN. 18, 2004 (Zenit.org).- A concert attended by John Paul II and leading rabbis and Muslim religious leaders became an urgent call to reconciliation among followers of the three faiths.
At the end of the musical event Saturday evening, the Pope addressed the audience in Paul VI Hall, saying that believers of the monotheist religions “cannot accept that the earth be afflicted by hatred, that humanity be troubled by endless wars.”
The papal address brought to a close the “Concert of Reconciliation” among Jews, Christians and Muslims, which took place in the presence of numerous religious leaders, including Israel’s Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and the secretary general of the World Islamic Call Society, Mohammed Ahmed Sharif.
Also present were representatives of the Orthodox Churches, the Federation of Evangelical Churches, and the Anglican Communion.
“The history of relations among Jews, Christians and Muslims is characterized by lights and shadows and, unfortunately, has known painful moments,” said the Pope, who was flanked by Elio Toaff, former chief rabbi of Rome, and Abdulawahah Hussein Gomaa, imam of the Rome mosque.
“Today the pressing need is felt for a sincere reconciliation among believers in the one God,” said the Holy Father.
“Together, we express the hope that people will be purified of the hatred and evil that constantly threaten peace, and that they will be able to extend to one another reciprocally hands free of violence but ready to offer help and comfort to those in need,” the Pope said, his voice clear.
“The Jew honors the Almighty as ‘protector of the human person,’ and God ‘of the promises of life,'” he continued. “The Christian knows that love is the reason why God enters into relationship with man and that love is the response awaited from man. For the Muslim, God is good and is able to fill the believer with his mercies.”
“Nourished by these convictions, Jews, Christians and Muslims cannot accept that the earth by afflicted by hatred, that humanity be troubled by endless wars,” he added.
“Yes! We must find in ourselves the courage of peace,” John Paul II said. “We must implore from on high the gift of peace. And this peace will spread as oil that soothes, if we walk without ceasing on the road of reconciliation.”
“Then the desert will become a garden where justice will reign, and the effect of justice will be peace,” he concluded quoting the prophet Isaiah.
The concert, organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, commemorated the first meeting of religious leaders for peace, in Assisi, at which John Paul II presided 18 years ago.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, gave the opening address.
He highlighted this pontificate’s most important gestures to foster reconciliation between the children of Abraham, such as the Pope’s visit to the synagogue of Rome in 1986, his prayer at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall in 2000, the visits to Cairo’s Al Azhar University (also during the Jubilee year), and to the Umayad Mosque in Damascus in 2001.
John Paul II has been the first Pope since the Apostle Peter to visit a synagogue and the very first to step into a mosque.
“Thank you for your example in the face of contempt, hatred and violence,” Cardinal Kasper said. “Thank you for your messages that exhort to reciprocal respect among men and all religions; thank you for your contribution to peace in the world.”
The concert was performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the choirs of London; Ankara, Turkey; Krakow, Poland; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, conducted by Gilbert Levine.
The orchestra performed John Harbison’s “Abraham” and parts of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection,” which was inspired by the poem “Dziady” by Polish dramatist Adam Mickiewicz.
The “Concert of Reconciliation” was held one day after the Holy Father received the two chief rabbis of Israel, Ashkenazi Yona Metzger and Sephardic Shlomo Amar. The Israeli Embassy to the Holy See described the meeting as “historic.”