.- Prayer for world peace is important but peace must first be constructed in each human heart, said Pope Benedict XVI in his message yesterday to the 20th Inter-religious Meeting of Prayer for Peace in Assisi.
The international meeting, held Sept. 4-5, first took place on Oct. 27, 1986. In his message, Benedict recalled how Pope John Paul II promoted the meeting.
Since 1986, the most important event toward peace has been the fall of Europe’s Communist regimes and the end of the Cold War, the Pope observed.
Unfortunately, he continued, the dream for universal peace did not come true as “the third millennium began with episodes of terrorism and violence that show no signs of abating."
Religion must be a “harbinger of peace,” he said. No one is permitted "to present religious difference as a reason or pretext for a belligerent attitude towards other human beings," he stated.
Prayer, including fasting and pilgrimage, “constitutes a vital element in an effective education for peace," the Pope added. He expressed joy at an initiative for young people in Assisi, promoted by the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, which includes a meeting for dialogue, prayer, and peace education.
The Pope noted the care taken at Assisi 20 years ago to ensure that the inter-religious prayer meeting “did not lend itself to syncretistic interpretations based on relativist concepts.” He underlined the importance at this inter-religious meeting that each religion maintains its traditions.
“Even when we find ourselves together to pray for peace, it is important that prayer take place according to those distinct paradigms particular to the various religions,” he said. “The convergence of opposites must not give the impression of a capitulation to the relativism that denies the very meaning of truth and the possibility of attaining it.”