Blessed John Paul II covened the first interreligious prayer encounter October 27, 1986. Pope Benedict XVI continues the tradition today meeting with representatives from many Christian denominations and more than a dozen other faiths; approximately 300 in all. Included among the invited are Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, Muslems, Lutherans, Methodist and Baptists. According to The Associated Press, for the first time the invited include four intellectuals professing no faith in God at all.
One deviation from the initial meeting of John Paul II is the fact that today the participants will not pray communal. Rather, they will have time for individual reflection and prayer. Afterwards the attendees will come together to share lunch and time for dialogue and remarks calling for world peace.
In his written statement Pope Benedict says, "...I have consciously invited delegates of this third group to our meeting in Assisi, which does not simply bring together representatives of religious institutions. Rather it is a case of being together on a journey towards truth, a case of taking a decisive stand for human dignity and a case of common engagement for peace against every form of destructive force. Finally I would like to assure you that the Catholic Church will not let up in her fight against violence, in her commitment for peace in the world. We are animated by the common desire to be "pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace".
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