Tuesday, 5 April 2011

'Day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world'

In October of this year, Pope Benedict XVI will visit Assisi to mark the 25th anniversary of the first inter-religious encounter held there at the invitation of Pope John Paul II. The Press Office of the Holy See has issued a news release "Pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace" which entitles the visit on 27th October as a "Day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world".

In the light of my earlier post on the question of Assisi 3 and the question of inter-religious prayer, this release makes interesting reading. What will be distinctive of 27th October 2011 compared to the previous days of prayer in Assisi are the times of silence during which the participants can reflect or pray according to their own beliefs. There is a time of such silence scheduled for the meeting at St Maria degli Angeli, and for the pilgrimage towards the Basilica of St Francis later in the day. We have become used to the "moment of reflection", for example, that has replaced the "prayer" that used to be said on BBC Radio 2's Sunday morning programme just before the news at 8. am. A "moment of reflection" is not uncommon in assemblies in schools. The point is this: for those of different religious belief, does this shared time of silence constitute a time of "inter-religious prayer" or of "multi-religious prayer" in the sense of the debate in my earlier post? How does the invitation of persons from the world of culture who do not have a religious belief alter the nature of this time of silence?

It is interesting that Pope Benedict will take part in a vigil of prayer the evening before, and invites his fellow Catholics to organise similar vigils in their own dioceses:
In preparation for this Day, Pope Benedict XVI will preside over a Prayer Vigil at Saint Peter’s the previous evening, together with the faithful of the Diocese of Rome. Particular Churches and communities throughout the world are invited to organize similar times of prayer.

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