October 24, 2020

Rainbow of religious leaders join Pope for peace

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ASSISI, Italy (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI joined Buddhist monks, Islamic scholars, Yoruba leaders and a handful of agnostics in making a communal call for peace Thursday, insisting that religion must never be used as a pretext for war or terrorism.

Benedict welcomed some 300 leaders representing a rainbow of faiths to the hilltop town of Assisi to commemorate the 25th anniversary of a daylong prayer for peace here called by Pope John Paul II in 1986 amid Cold War conflicts.

While the event lacked the star power of 1986, when the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and others came together to pray, Thursday’s peace meeting included some novelties that the original lacked. Buddhist monks from mainland China were on hand as were four people who profess no faith at all — part of Benedict’s efforts to reach out to agnostics and atheists who nevertheless are searching for truth.

Thursday’s meeting also included Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and representatives from Greek, Russian, Serbian and Belarusian Orthodox churches as well as Lutheran, Methodist and Baptist leaders. Several rabbis were joined by some 60 Muslims, a half-dozen Hindus and Shinto believers, three Taoists, three Jains and a Zoroastrian.

Traditional Catholics condemned the meeting — just as they did in 1986 — saying it was blasphemy for the pope to invite leaders of “false” religions to pray to their Gods for peace.

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