ROME (Oct. 15)
Pope John Paul II has issued invitations to Jews, Christians and representatives of other faiths to convene at Assisi October 27 for an international day of prayer for peace.
Through diplomatic channels, all nations are being asked to lay down their arms for the entire day, reporters were told at a Vatican press conference Friday. The appeal has gone out not only to nations in a state of war or formal belligerence but also “to those who seek to achieve their aims through terrorism or other forms of violence,” Msgr. Achille Silvestrini, the Vatican Secretary of State, declared.
“Of course we realize that peace cannot be achieved by prayer alone, however essential it be. Prayer must go together with a conversion of the heart and an active commitment to justice,” Silvestrini said.
The Papal invitations were divided between “Christians” and “non-Christians” but Jews were included on the Christians list because, Silvestrini explained, of the “special bond” Christians feel they have with Jews and because of historical reasons dating back to the 1965 Second Ecumenical Council (Vatican II) when the Office for Religious Relations with Jews was incorporated into the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity.
The non-Christian faiths invited include Hindu, Buddhist, Islam, Shinto, Zoroastrianism and the “traditional religions” of American Indians and Africans. But Islam is to be represented solely by nations not at war, such as Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Bangladesh and Ivory Coast.
Moslem nations such as Iran and Iraq, which are at war with each other, Libya, Syria and Saudi Arabia, technically in a state of war with Israel, were not invited because “their simultaneous presence would create divisions at Assisi and not serve the cause of peace,” Silvestrini said.
Papal invitations were extended to the Rome Jewish Community, the Union of Italian Jewish Communities and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultation (IJCIC) which is the Holy See’s official Jewish partner in dialogue. The IJCIC comprises the American Jewish Committee, Synagogue Council of America, Israel Interfaith Committee, World Jewish Congress and B’nai B’rith International.
To date, the only definite Jewish participant is the delegation to be led by Rome’s Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff. He has assured his presence with nine other Jewish males to constitute a minyan for prayer.