BY Ian Dunn | October 18 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


More than 50 nations expected at Assisi pilgrimage

Cardinal Peter Turkson (above), president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, reveals the Holy Father’s hopes for the historic peace event next Thursday

The Vatican has released details on the interfaith day for peace and justice due to take place in the Italian town of Assisi next Thursday, calling the event a pilgrimage.

While some of the invited guests have sent their apologies—including Dalai Lama and British atheist philosopher AC Grayling—more than 300 delegates from 50 nations are expected to accept Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to join him in Assisi. They will include representatives from many European and American countries plus Egypt, Israel, Pakistan, Jordan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Philippines.

At today’s press conference Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, revealed the Holy Father’s hopes for the historic event. Instead of holding his weekly general audience October 26, the Pope will lead a special prayer service in preparation for the Assisi event.

‘During the pilgrimage, the walk, in silence,’ the participants also are likely to pray, but ‘the real prayer will be here at St Peter’s on the vigil (October 26) when the Holy Father is with the Catholic faithful.’

Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace

The gathering next week will mark the 25th anniversary of the historic meeting organised in Assisi by Blessed John Paul II in 1986.

“The world today, as it did 25 years ago, needs peace,” Cardinal Turkson said. “Following two and a half decades of collaboration and joint witness among religions, it is time to assess the results and to relaunch our commitment in the face of new challenges.”

The cardinal said those challenges include ‘the financial and economic crisis which is lasting longer than expected, the crisis in democratic and social institutions, food and environmental problems, biblical-scale migrations, indirect forms of neo-colonialism, the scourge of poverty and hunger, unchecked international terrorism, and greater inequality and religious discrimination.’

“The journey of religions towards justice and peace must be characterised by a joint search for truth,” he added. “Therefore Benedict XVI wishes the 2011 initiative in Assisi to be seen as a pilgrimage; the which implies asceticism, purification, convergence towards a more exalted place, and taking on a community responsibility.”


When speaking of programme of events for the day, the cardinal explained that some of the delegations will leave Rome by train on October 27 in the company of the Holy Father. Upon arrival in in Assisi, they will make their way to the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, where the delegations will recall the previous meetings there and explore the theme of the day in greater depth. The Holy Father will also deliver an address.

That afternoon, those present will make a pilgrimage to the Basilica of St Francis, being joined on the last stage by the remaining delegations. Having reached the basilica, everyone will make a solemn renewal of their joint commitment to peace.

Click here to read more on the Dalai Lama sending his apologies.

Click here to read more on AC Grayling’s withdrawal.

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