DAY OF PRAYER FOR
PEACE IN THE WORLD
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CHRISTIAN CELEBRATION
1. Together as Christ’s disciples
Of particular significance in the context of the Day of Prayer for Peace in the World is the participation of the various representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities. The presence of so many of them in Assisi is a sign of unity before the world at this moment in history.
As Christ’s disciples who live immersed in history, they are attuned to the joy and hopes, the sorrows and the anxieties of the people of our time... there is nothing genuinely human that does not find an echo in their hearts (cf. Gaudium et Spes, No. 1). For this reason, they join all men and women of good will, together with the representatives of the other religions, in upholding the cause of peace at this troubled time in our history.
As followers of the Divine Master, they desire to testify together to one of the first sayings found in the Gospel: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Mt 5:9).
As followers of the Prince of Peace, they wish to offer their practical witness, their common prayer, their joint commitment, all together, conscious of the importance that the disciples of Jesus bear common witness “so that the world may believe” (cf. Jn 17:21).
2. An evangelical witness for all
The message and the gift of peace which Jesus bequeathed to his disciples have become ever more necessary in this time. Christians know this. The whole message of the Old and New Testaments is interspersed with references to peace with God and with our brothers and sisters. As Paul writes: “He is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility... that he might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross... He came and preached peace... and through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (cf. Eph 2:14-18).
As heirs of Christ’s testament, Christians are in this world the guardians of the gift of universal brotherhood in the one heavenly Father, and witnesses of love of one another and love of one’s enemies, even to the sacrifice of one’s own life in accordance with the teaching and witness of their Master.
Many are the witnesses of the faith in East and West who have given their lives for peace and reconciliation, and have shed their blood while praying for their persecutors.
This great Christian witness is well expressed by the words of Pope John Paul II in his Message for the 2002 World Day of Peace: “No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness”.
3. A common prayer
All Christians, in fellowship of faith in the confession of the Holy Trinity, united in the word of salvation and the bond of Holy Baptism, can and must not only bear witness to peace and courageously commit themselves to building a world renewed by forgiveness and love, but they must also pray together, in hearing the one Word, in the intercession of the one Lord Jesus, in the communion of the one Spirit, in the invocation of their one heavenly Father.
For this reason, on the Assisi Day of Prayer all Christians will pray together in a special ecumenical celebration – one which significantly takes place during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – characterized by elements common to all the Christian confessions.
The celebration takes place in the Lower Basilica. It is completely centred upon the great sign of the Gospel Book, borne in procession to the singing of New Testament texts on peace, enthroned, surrounded by lights and incensed as the living presence of the Lord in his word.
The initial invocation of the Holy Father and the triple trinitarian invocation emphasize our fellowship in the bond of the Trinity, source of love and reconciliation. The invocation is concluded by the Holy Father with an intense and heartfelt prayer for peace.
The word of God – gift, commitment and prophecy of peace – is proclaimed in three readings from the New Testament. Each reading is followed by three invocations to Christ inspired by the word just proclaimed and concluded by a prayer for peace recited by a Patriarch of the Oriental Churches. It is well known that in the various Christian rites prayers for peace are frequent, intense and rich in meaning.
Word and prayer, proclamation and invocation, constitute the thread of the common celebration of Christians, which leads to commitment and witness.
The celebration concludes with the singing in unison of the Lord’s Prayer and the Aaronic blessing, invoking the gift of peace.
Order of the Celebration
I. Initial Rites
1. Entrance and enthronement of the Book of the Gospels
- The Holy Father and the Representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities take part in the entrance procession to the altar. The procession is led by the Book of the Gospel carried by the Orthodox Deacon and accompanied by four lamps carried by lay persons from different Churches and Ecclesial Communities.
- During the procession the schola and assembly sing the entrance song Beati Pacifici.
- When the procession arrives at the altar, the Book of the Gospels is placed on its special bookstand. The Holy Father and the Ecumenical Patriarch then prepare the incense and the Book of the Gospels is incensed by a Latin and an Orthodox Deacon.
2. Trinitarian invocation and praise
- The Holy Father introduces the celebration.
- There follows an invocation to the Trinity by the Representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities:
After each invocation the assembly responds Benedictus Deus in saecula.
- The Holy Father recites a prayer.
II. Readings and Invocations
1. Biblical readings
- Three Representatives read three Christological invocations. After each invocation the cantor and assembly sing the acclamation Kyrie, eleison.
3. Prayer for peace
- After the last acclamation, the Patriarch of an Eastern Church recites a prayer for peace. A moment of silence follows.
This sequence is then repeated twice: the reading of a biblical text, three Christological invocations with the acclamation Kyrie, eleison, a prayer for peace and a moment of silence.
The biblical readings will be proclaimed by:
- Representative of the Patriarchate of Moscow (Russian)
The invocations will be recited by:
- Representative of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All
The prayer for peace will be recited by:
- The Ecumenical Patriarch (Greek)
4. Pater Noster
- After the third prayer for peace and the subsequent moment of silence, the Holy Father introduces the Pater Noster, which is sung by all.
III. Blessing and Dismissal
- The moment of prayer concludes with the Aaronic Blessing.
Three Representatives recite the three invocations:
The Holy Father reads the concluding text.
- Music accompanies the dispersing of the assembly.
* * *
“Whoever really accepts the word of the good and merciful God cannot fail to remove from his heart every form of rancour and enmity. At this moment of history, humanity needs to see gestures of peace and to hear words of hope” (John Paul II, Introduction to the Sunday Angelus, 18 November 2001)
Vatican City, 19 January 2002
+ PIERO MARINI