VATICAN CITY, NOV. 18, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of John Paul II´s address to pilgrims gathered today in St. Peter´s Square for the midday Angelus.
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Dearest Brothers and Sisters!
1. The international scene continues to be disturbed by worrying tensions. We cannot forget the intense sufferings that have afflicted and still afflict so many of our brothers and sisters in the world: thousands of innocent victims in the grave attacks of last Sept. 11; innumerable people forced to abandon their homes to face the unknown and, sometimes, a cruel death; women, the elderly and children exposed to the risk of dying of cold and hunger.
In a situation made dramatic by the always-present threat of terrorism, we feel the need to cry out to God. The more insurmountable the difficulties and obscure the prospects, so much the more insistent must our prayer be, to implore God for the gift of mutual understanding, harmony and peace.
2. We know that prayer acquires force if it is coupled with fasting and almsgiving. The Old Testament already taught this and from the earliest centuries, Christians have accepted and applied this lesson, especially at the times of Advent and Lent. For their part, Muslim faithful have just begun Ramadan, a month dedicated to fasting and prayer. Shortly, we Christian will begin Advent, to prepare ourselves in prayer for the celebration of Christmas, the day of birth of the “Prince of Peace.”
At this opportune time, I ask Catholics to make next Dec. 14 a day of fasting, during which to pray with fervor to God so that he will grant the world a stable peace, based on justice, and make it possible to find adequate solutions to the many conflicts that trouble the world. May what is saved from fasting be placed at the disposal of the poor, especially those who at present suffer the consequences of terrorism and war.
I would also like to announce that it is my intention to invite the representatives of the religions of the world to come to Assisi on Jan. 24, 2002, to pray for the surmounting of oppositions and the promotion of authentic peace. In particular, we wish to have Christians and Muslims come together, to proclaim before the world that religion must never be a reason for conflict, hatred and violence. Whoever really accepts the word of the good and merciful God, cannot but exclude from his heart every form of rancor and enmity. In this historic moment, humanity needs to see gestures of peace and to hear words of hope.
As I said 15 years ago, when announcing the meeting of prayer for peace, which was held in Assisi the following October: “It is urgent that a choral invocation be raised from the earth to heaven, to implore from the Almighty, in whose hands is the destiny of the world, the great gift of peace, the necessary condition for any serious endeavor at the service of humanity´s real progress.”
3. From this moment I entrust this initiative to the maternal intercession of Mary Most Holy, asking her to sustain our efforts, and those of the whole of humanity, in the way of peace.
We ask you, Queen of Peace, to help us respond with the force of truth and love to the new and overwhelming challenges of the present time. Help us also to surmount this difficult moment, which disturbs the serenity of so many people, and to work unhesitatingly to build, every day and in every environment, an authentic culture of peace.
[translation by ZENIT]