Date set for Assisi peace gathering…with one important change

News out of the Vatican over the weekend:

Pope Benedict XVI will call people of goodwill to join him in working for peace during a “day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world” to be held in Assisi on Oct. 27.

At the start of the year, the Pope announced his plans to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul’s World Day of Prayer [for] Peace.

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The Vatican announced April 2 that it will take place on the exact anniversary of the original event in 1986.

“Pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace” is the theme of the encounter to which the Vatican will invite people of good will of all major creeds and none at all to take part.

But there will be one important difference between the gathering this October and the meeting held 25 years ago:

John Paul II’s event came under fire for seemingly promoting a united prayer from participants, which critics have said gave mixed signals to the world, blurring the lines between one religion and another. According to the Vatican’s April 2 communique, Pope Benedict’s gathering will not feature communal prayer as part of the agenda.

Some thought that the gestures of goodwill at the first meeting may have gone a bit too far; as Deacon Greg Kandra notes, then-Cardinal Ratzinger was conspicuously absent from that gathering, leading some to speculate that he himself was concerned about some of the proceedings.

What’s more, schismatic traditionalist groups like the Society of St. Pius X have repeatedly pointed to the original Assisi meeting as evidence of Vatican II run amok. Just in February, Bishop Bernard Fellay cited the upcoming meeting this October as one of the reasons why talks were breaking down between the Vatican and the schismatic group.

But now, with the main point of contention removed — i.e., the interreligious prayer service — there’s little to object to in the gathering. It will be interesting to see how the SSPX leaders respond, now that their main objection no longer holds water.

  • Margaret Cabaniss

    Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at SlowMama.com.

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