DAY OF PRAYER FOR PEACE IN THE WORLD
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE DAY
1. A world made more fragile by violence and terrorism
The appalling events which shook the world in September of last year, at the very beginning of the third millennium, sowed seeds of violence and hatred, and broke the spell of a society which saw itself as advanced and free, but yet in an instant found itself fragile, divided and threatened.
The terrorist acts, which struck and damaged places seen as symbols of economic and military power, touched the hearts of everyone and revealed the weakness of the world situation. There was a danger that these events would be seen as a conflict between economic and social systems or, worse still, as a clash between the Muslim world and other religions, especially Christianity.
2. The cry for peace in the hearts of believers
Beyond the predictable and almost unanimous condemnation of terrorism understood as a threat to the harmony and rights of individuals and nations throughout the world, the tragic events of September 2001 stirred a number of helpful reactions in more attentive observers, and especially among the followers of the different religions:
- First, a condemnation of terrorism and every type of armed aggression which always bring hatred and violence and everywhere sow seeds of death and sorrow.
- Third, believers of the different religions, their hearts enlightened by the religious spirit which everywhere promotes fraternity among the world's peoples, were deeply aware of the still open and weeping wounds of injustice, ethnic and social conflict, the violence of war, and disregard for the rights of individuals and peoples, which cause suffering and endemic poverty, the lack of work and dignity, the great migrations and the menacing conflicts still taking place.
3. A shared commitment of religions before the world
Faced with this world scene, the representatives of the various religions have almost spontaneously in recent months come to a common mind on three great commitments, to which they have often given expression.
- First, a heightened sense of the value of peace as a gift from God, to be prayed for with ever greater trust, according to the practice and tradition of each religion.
- Second, the desire to demonstrate solidarity joining together in shared supplication for peace.
- Third, the urgent need to witness together to a commitment to peace and justice, both in daily life and in the great decisions of political and social life - a witness which the secularized world, though far removed from religion, often demands and of which it feels itself in need.
4. The summons of Pope John Paul II
In a renewed 'spirit of Assisi', gratefully recalling the Day of Prayer for Peace on 27 October 1986, which offered the world a moving witness and was the prelude to historic change in the countries of Eastern Europe, the Holy Father has issued an invitation to come to Assisi on 24 January 2002, and this has been widely and generously accepted by Representatives of the Churches, Ecclesial Communities and the great religions of the world.
5. Testimony, prayer, commitment
The Day of Prayer for Peace is being held in Assisi, in the shadow of Saint Francis, the Poverello di Dio who witnessed to non-violence, to peace with all people, and to harmony with all of creation.
The programme will have four parts.
In the first part, after arriving in Assisi, the Holy Father welcomes and greets the Representatives of the world religions in Piazza San Francesco.
The second part is given to prayer. The Representatives and their delegations, respecting their own religious convictions, go to pray in different places. Christians of the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities pray together in an ecumenical celebration in the Lower Basilica of Saint Francis.
As a sign of communion and hospitality, the programme also includes a fraternal meal for the Representatives and their delegations in the Sacro Convento.
In the afternoon, the fourth part of the day will take place, again in Piazza San Francesco. It will comprise a reading by some of the Representatives of a common text of commitment to peace, the sign of the lamp, the fraternal embrace and the Holy Father's farewell, urging renewed common witness to peace in today's world at the beginning of the third millennium.
The programme of the day, as previously noted, is as follows:
- His Holiness Pope John Paul II arrives by car at 11:00 a.m. in front of the entrance to the lower Basilica and enters Piazza San Francesco by foot. In front of the dais he welcomes the representatives who enter the Square from Via Fra Elia, together with their respective delegations, to the sound of music and the ringing of the bells of Assisi.
- Once all the representatives have taken their places on the dais, the Holy Father greets them. The choir then sings Non levabit gens contra gentem gladium.
- At the conclusion of the song, Cardinal François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, reads from the lectern a word of introduction.
2. Testimonies for Peace
3. Address by the Pope
- The Holy Father addresses the assembly.
- A moment of silence and a musical interlude follow.
4. Invitation to prayer
- The Holy Father invites all present to proceed to their respective places for prayer.
- To the sound of music, the papal choir, the representatives with their respective delegations, and the Holy Father leave the square towards the lower Basilica and make their way to the places set aside for prayer.
1. Access to the different places of prayer
- The papal choir and the Christian delegations enter the lower Basilica directly and take their places immediately, after which the Holy Father and the representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities enter in procession.
- The representatives of the other religions, together with their delegations, upon leaving the piazza, are accompanied by the staff of the corresponding Pontifical Council and the Friars of the Convent to the places set aside for them.
2. Places set aside for prayer
- Lower Basilica: Christians
- Sacred Convent:
At 1:30 p.m., the Holy Father and the representatives make their way to the refectory and the Delegations to other places set aside in the Convent to partake of a fraternal meal.
1. Entrance and introduction
Music will be performed during the entrance.
- Once all are at their places, the opening hymn is sung: O quam pulchri pedes annunciantis pacem.
- At the conclusion of the hymn, Cardinal Francis Arinze, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, reads an introduction from the lectern.
2. Commitment to peace
- The Franciscan Friars bring a lighted lamp to the Holy Father and the representatives.
- Some of the representatives take their places around the lectern and read the text of the common commitment to peace in different languages:
- The Holy Father confirms and concludes the shared commitment to peace in these words:
- The Holy Father, followed by the representatives, makes his way to the pedestal in the centre before the platform and places the lamp there. The representatives do the same after him.
Meanwhile, the Canticle of the Creatures of Saint Francis is sung.
3. Sign of Peace
- The Holy Father exchanges a sign of peace with all the representatives.
Those in the Piazza also exchange a sign of peace to the sound of music.
- The Holy Father dismisses the gathering with a brief exhortation.
The assembly disperses to the sound of music.
* * *
"[In coming to Assisi], we will show that genuine religious belief is an inexhaustible wellspring of mutual respect and harmony among peoples; indeed it is the chief antidote to violence and conflict"(From the Message for the 2002 World Day of Peace, No. 14).
Vatican City, 19 January 2002
+ PIERO MARINI