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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Praying for peace in Assisi

Pope Francis has landed in Assisi, the hilltop town in central Italy where Saint Francis was born. His one day visit to Assisi allows him to take part in the closing of the inter-religious World Day of Prayer for Peace, organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio. The theme of the 3-day international meeting this year is Thirst for Peace: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the First World Day of Prayer for Peace that Saint John Paul II convened back in 1986, an historic event which saw world leaders of different religions come together for the very first time to pray for peace.

The Pope travelled to Assisi by helicopter and after his landing near th  Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels where Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi and the local authorities greeted him, the Pope traveled by car to the Holy Convent of Assisi. Here he was welcomed by Father Mauro Gambetti, Custodian of the Holy Convent; the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I; a Muslim representative; Doctor Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury; the Syro-Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Efrem II; a Jewish representative and the Supreme Head of Tendai Buddhism (Japan). They then moved to the Cloister of Sixtus IV where the representatives of Christian denominations and World Religions were waiting.

Pope Francis greeted all participants at the World Day of Prayer for Peace before having lunch in the  refectory of the Holy Convent along with several war victims and refugees.

During the afternoon Pope Francis met individually with the following: Bartholomew I, a Muslim representative, Archbishop Justin Welby, Patriarch Efrem II and a Jewish representative. At 4pm local time Prayers for Peace will take place in different venues. The Ecumenical Prayer of Christians takes place in the Lower Basilica of Saint Francis, after which all the participants will exit from the Lower Basilica and meet with the Representatives of other religions who have prayed in different places and they will move to the podium in the Square.

A closing ceremony is scheduled to take place at 5.15pm in Saint Francis Square with messages read by Pope Francis, by a victim of war, Patriarch Bartholomew I, a Muslim representative, a Jewish representative, Japanese Buddhist Patriarch and by Professor Andrea Riccardi, Founder of the Sant’Egidio Community.

A Letter appealing for peace will be handed to children from various countries followed by  a moment of silence for the victims of war, the signing of an Appeal for Peace and the lighting of two candles, and the exchange of a sign of peace Pope Francis is scheduled to depart from Assisi at 6.30pm and arrive back at the Vatican City Heliport one hour later.
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