NICOSIA, Cyprus, NOV. 18, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Pope John Paul II’s longtime personal secretary says the international peace meeting closing today in Cyprus is bringing forward the “spirit of Assisi” promoted by the Polish Pontiff.
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow, said this Sunday at the opening ceremony of the International Meeting of Prayer for Peace, traditionally sponsored by the Catholic lay Sant’Egidio Community, and this year cosponsored by the Orthodox Church of Cyprus. This 22nd annual meeting is on “The Civilization of Peace: Faiths and Cultures in Dialogue.”
These annual international meetings are part of the heritage of the World Day of Prayer for Peace convened in Assisi by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 27, 1986.
The cardinal said that “thanks to the courage and the tenacity of the friends from Sant’Egidio, the ‘spirit of Assisi’ has blown in many places, crossing many borders: Cities of Italy, of Europe and of the world have opened themselves to encounter and dialogue between diverse worlds.”
Cardinal Dziwisz recalled that John Paul II was convinced that the religious dimension being relegated to the margins of Western culture and society should again take on an important role. In this regard, one day in 1986, the Pope confided to him: “A prayer for peace from all the religions of the world — this is what we need! A great cry to God for peace.”
From this, the prelate explained, came the idea of Assisi, St. Francis’ city, as the “ideal place for an invocation to God from believers of diverse religions.”
The Holy Father did not want the spirit of Assisi to be an isolated event, the Polish cardinal continued, and therefore he “welcomed with satisfaction and support the initiative from the Sant’Egidio Community to convoke a prayer meeting for peace each year, in the ‘spirit of Assisi.'”
“He never was lacking in his support, sending representatives of the Holy See and personal messages to the organizers and participants,” the Krakow archbishop continued. “John Paul II continued walking with us in the spirit of Assisi.
“Because of this, dear friends, I would like to make you an invitation: Next year, come to Krakow. Do it in the name of John Paul II. It is his city that he loved so much!”
There are other “important reasons” to make Krakow the site of the 23rd International Meeting of Prayer for Peace, the cardinal affirmed, citing the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, with the Sept. 1, 1939, Nazi invasion of Poland.
“Seventy years after that tragic and inhuman event in which armed men entered our land, come to Poland as pilgrims of peace,” he encouraged. Recalling that in Poland, the “memory of World War II is still alive and visible” the cardinal suggested that the pilgrims select Auschwitz as the site for part of the event.
“We cannot forget,” he said. “We have the duty to remember and make ourselves remember.”
The year 2009, Cardinal Dziwisz continued, will also be an anniversary of the fall of communism. In fact, he said, 1989 was “a decisive year for Poland and for all Eastern Europe: the year of liberty for so many European nations and the fount of hope for a more just and human world.”
“Thus, you’re welcome in Krakow,” he concluded. “As archbishop of this splendid city in the heart of Europe, in which the memory of the Servant of God John Paul II lives on, and [a city] rich in a long and adventuresome history, I assure you the warmest of welcomes. Until next year!”