Pope Francis to visit Assisi again for interreligious summit

Pope Francis 2 at the general audience in St Peters Square Feb 3 2016 Credit Daniel Ibanez CNA 2 3 16 Pope Francis at the general audience in St. Peter's Square, Feb. 3, 2016. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

In September Pope Francis will make his second visit to Assisi in just two months for an interreligious summit for peace, where he will pray and meet alongside major Islamic and Orthodox leaders.

The visit will take place Sept. 20, which marks the 30th anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Peace that St. John Paul II convoked in Assisi 1986.

St. John Paul II went back to Assisi for successive events 1993 and 2002. The last day of prayer led by a Pope was convoked by Benedict XVI in 2011, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first historic meeting in Assisi.

However, the Sant'Egidio community has organized an interreligious meeting every year since 1986, held at different locations. This year the meeting will once again take place in Assisi, with the Pope present.

Pope Francis' presence at the prayer summit will be his third time in Assisi, the first having taken place Oct. 4, 2013, for the feast day of his namesake, and the second being just a few weeks ago on Aug. 4, to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the "perdono" indulgence.

Shortly after the Pope's visit to Assisi Aug. 4, Mohamed Abdel Qader, the Imam of Perugia and Umbria and who met with Francis during the brief trip, hinted that another visit could take place again soon. The news was confirmed by the Vatican Aug. 18.

Titled "Thirst for Peace: Religions and Cultures in dialogue," the World Day of Prayer for Peace will run Sept. 18-20, and is being organized by the Community of Sant'Egidio in collaboration with the Franciscan family and the diocese of Assisi.

Other than Pope Francis, other special guests who will make an appearance include Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and the rector of the prestigious al-Azhar University, Imam Ahmen al-Tayyeb.

Since his election Pope Francis has shown that both interfaith and ecumenical dialogue are key priorities for his pontificate. Not only has met with Patriarch Bartholomew on several occasions, he was also the first Pope in history to meet with a leader of the Russian Orthodox Church when he embraced Patriarch Kirill Feb. 12 while on his way to Mexico.

The Pope has also placed a strong emphasis on dialogue with Muslims, welcoming al-Tayyeb to the Vatican May 23 for a visit largely seen as a making a leap in terms of Catholic-Muslim relations.

The Custos of the Sacred Convent of Assisi, Fr. Mauro Gambettilo, has confirmed that the Italy's President, Sergio Mattarella, will also be there.

The president of the Community of Sant'Egidio, Marco Impagliazzo, said the meeting is "a necessary encounter," especially given the current global climate of conflict.

"It will be a convergence of very high religious and institutional personalities: to show to all that religions are not indifferent to this cry which rises up from the people and to distance ourselves from preachers of hate, working in favor of the integration which is the key to defending our societies from violence."

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