The theme of the event, organized by the Sant'Egidio lay Catholic community, was "No one is saved alone," a phrase that comes from Pope Francis' most recent encyclical, Fratelli tutti. Pope Francis expanded upon this line in his message at an ecumenical prayer in the basilica before the ceremony:
"The closer we become to the Lord Jesus, the more we will be open and 'universal,' since we will feel responsible for others. And others will become the means of our own salvation: all others, every human person, whatever his or her history and beliefs. Beginning with the poor, who are those most like Jesus," the pope said.
"The great archbishop of Constantinople, St. John Chrysostom, once wrote: 'If there were no poor, the greater part of our salvation would be overthrown,'" Pope Francis added.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, Haim Korsia, Chief Rabbi of France, Mohamed Abdelsalam of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, and Zen Buddhist Shoten Minegishi all spoke at the interreligious event.
In his speech, Abdelsalam, the Muslim General Secretary of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, condemned the recent beheading of a Paris school teacher in an Islamist terror attack.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella and other Italian government authorities were also present at the event.
"Rome and Italy are proud to be once again a crossroads in the dialogue of peace," Mattarella said.
The Community of Sant'Egidio said that the event was inspired by the first World Day of Prayer for Peace, organized by St. John Paul II in 1986 in Assisi with 160 other religious leaders.
"The Assisi Meeting and its vision of peace contained a prophetic seed that by God's grace has gradually matured through unprecedented encounters, acts of peacemaking, and fresh initiatives of fraternity," Pope Francis told the religious and civil leaders.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
"Although the intervening years have witnessed painful events, including conflicts, terrorism and radicalism, at times in the name of religion, we must also acknowledge the fruitful steps undertaken in the dialogue between the religions," the pope said.
The "Appeal for Peace" signed by each of the religious leaders at the event said: "On this Capitoline Hill, in the wake of the greatest conflict in history, the nations that had been at war made a pact based on a dream of unity that later came true: the dream of a united Europe. Today, in these uncertain times, as we feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that threatens peace by aggravating inequalities and fear, we firmly state that no one can be saved alone: no people, no single individual!"
"Wars and peace, pandemics and health care, hunger and access to food, global warming and sustainable development, the displacement of populations, the elimination of nuclear threats and the reduction of inequalities: these are not matters that concern individual nations alone …
Let us pray to the Most High that, after this time of trial, there may no longer be 'others,' but rather, a great 'we,' rich in diversity. The time has come to boldly dream anew that peace is possible, that it is necessary, that a world without war is not utopian. This is why we want to say once more: 'No more war.'"