Pope Benedict XVI held his weekly General Audience Wednesday, during which he continued his catechetical series on prayer. The focus of the catechesis this was Psalm 136:
Known as the Great Hallel, this Psalm is a great hymn of praise which was traditionally sung at the conclusion of the Passover meal. As such, it was probably sung by Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper (cf. Mt 26:30). The Psalm takes the form of a litany praising God’s mighty deeds in the creation of the world and in the history of Israel; each reference to God’s saving work is followed by the refrain: “For his steadfast love endures for ever”. It is God’s faithful love, in fact, which is revealed in the ordered beauty of the universe and in the great events of Israel’s liberation from slavery and the pilgrimage of the Chosen People to the land of promise. As we sing this great litany of God’s mighty works, we give thanks that the depth of his steadfast and merciful love was fully revealed in the coming of his only-begotten Son.
The Holy Father went on to say that in Christ, we see clearly “what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God, for that is what we are” (1 Jn 3:1). As usual, following the catechesis, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in several languages, including English:
I offer cordial greetings to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Norway, Nigeria, Australia, Indonesia and the United States. My greeting also goes to the members of Legatus visiting Rome on pilgrimage and to the group of Lutheran pilgrims from Iceland. I also welcome the group of Anglican seminarians taking part in a month of study in Rome. Upon all of you I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!
This Wednesday was the latest of more than a dozen reflections on Christian prayer, which the Holy Father began in May of this year.
Assisi: Religions Journeying towards Justice and Peace
VATICAN CITY, 18 OCT 2011 (VIS) - A press conference was held this morning in the Holy See Press Office to present the "Day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world: Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace", due to take place in the Italian town of Assisi on 27 October.
Participating in today's conference were: Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; Bishop Mario Toso, S.D.B., secretary of the same pontifical council; Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue; Fr. Andrea Palmieri, head of the Oriental Section of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; Msgr. Melchor Jose Sanchez de Toca y Alameda, under secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and Fr. Jean-Marie Laurent Mazas of the Pontifical Council for Culture, director of the "Courtyard of the Gentiles" initiative.
By calling this Day in Assisi, Benedict XVI wishes to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the historic meeting organised there by John Paul II in 1986. "The world today, as it did twenty-five years ago, needs peace", said Cardinal Turkson. "Following two and a half decades of collaboration and joint witness among religions, it is time to assess the results and to relaunch our commitment in the face of new challenges", he explained. Those challenges include "the financial and economic crisis which is lasting longer than expected, the crisis in democratic and social institutions, food and environmental problems, biblical-scale migrations, indirect forms of neo-colonialism, the scourge of poverty and hunger, unchecked international terrorism, and greater inequality and religious discrimination".
"Once more - and suffice to consider recent events in Egypt and other parts of the world - we must say 'no' to any exploitation of religion. Violence among religions is a scandal which distorts the true identity of religions, it obscures the face of God and distances us from the faith.
"The journey of religions towards justice and peace", the cardinal added, "must be characterised by a joint search for truth. ... Therefore Benedict XVI wishes the 2011 initiative in Assisi ... to be seen as a pilgrimage; the which implies asceticism, purification, convergence towards a more exalted place, and taking on a community responsibility".
The search for truth "is a precondition for knowing one another better, for overcoming all forms of prejudice, and of syncretism which obscures identity". It likewise helps us "to collaborate for the common good" and facilitates our "coming together on the plane of natural reason". It is a prerequisite "for defeating fanaticism and fundamentalism, according to which peace comes about by imposing one's own convictions on others", and for overcoming "the Babel of languages and the laicism which seeks to remove from the human family the One Who is its Beginning and End".
Turning to consider the programme of events for the Day, the cardinal explained that the various delegations will leave Rome by train on 27 October, in the company of the Holy Father. Having arrived in Assisi, they will make their way to the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, where the delegations will recall the previous meetings there and explore the theme of the Day in greater depth. The Holy Father will also deliver an address. That afternoon, those present in will make a "pilgrimage" to the Basilica of St. Francis, being joined on the last stage by the members of the delegations. Having reached the basilica, everyone will make a solemn renewal of their joint commitment to peace.
More than fifty nations will be represented in Assisi. They will include, apart from many European and American countries, Egypt, Israel, Pakistan, Jordan, Iran,Saudi Arabia, Philippines and many others. "Those which, at this moment in history, perhaps suffer most from problems associated with religious freedom and dialogue between religions", Cardinal Turkson observed.
For his part, Msgr. Melchor Jose Sanchez de Toca y Alameda, under secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, pointed out that the Pope has, for the first time, also invited non-believers to a religious meeting. "This innovative idea of the Holy Father's", he said, "is based on the conviction that men and women, both believers and non-believers, are always searching for God, for the Absolute, and that they are, therefore, all pilgrims travelling towards the fullness of truth".
The Pope's invitation to participate in the Day has been accepted by the French linguist, psychoanalyst, philosopher and writer Julia Kristeva; the Italian philosopher Remo Bodei; the Mexican philosopher Guillermo Hurtado, and the Austrian economist Walter Baier.