Assisi 2011: A preview

   Pope Benedict is taking part in a gathering in the Italian city of Assisi on Thursday to commemorate the the 25th anniversary of the Day of Prayer for Peace hosted in the city by Pope John Paul II which was attended by leaders and representatives of the world’s major religions and faiths.
   This time around more than 170 religious leaders and representatives of non believers will be taking part in the day-long commemorative event in Assisi whose theme is “Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace. Our correspondent covering this meeting is Philippa Hitchen and she spoke to Susy Hodges about its key features and objectives and about the differences between this year’s gathering and the first event convened by the late pope in 1986.
   Philippa says Pope Benedict is putting a different focus on Thursday’s event: “he’s looking on it as a pilgrimage and he’s including non-believers.” She also notes that whereas at the 1986 event only 11 Muslim delegations attended, “this time around there will be 50 different Muslim delegations from around the world.”
   Asked about its objectives, Philippa says the Assisi gathering “is a time to look back at what we’ve achieved… to reflect on where the Spirit is taking us next … and what is the next step of this pilgrimage.”
   The 1986 Assisi Prayer for Peace meeting was criticised by some within the Church for its suggestion of syncretism but Philippa explained that Pope Benedict has always taken great pains to make this distinction: “we’re not praying all together, we’re not trying to confuse people… we’re not trying to mix up these religions.”


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