Paradoxes of the meeting in Assisi

Cardinal Stanisław Nagy

On 27 October 2011, a significant meeting was held in Assisi which deserves a special attention for many reasons, especially the attention of a Polish Catholic.

A contested initiative

It has been 25 years since the moment when the Polish Pope – to surprise of a serious faction of the Roman Curia – summoned a prayer inter-religious meeting in Assisi. Some doubts appeared whether it is not a threat of syncretism and even indifferentism or relativism. The Pope was aware of those doubts. But the danger for the peace in the world from the authentic and unscrupulous communism, the perspective of nuclear crisis and growing violence in international relations were so real that he did not withdraw from his clear intuition of appealing to all religious people in order to share his worrying care for the peace in the world. Consequently, he summoned the representatives of different religious traditions in Francis’ Assisi, for the purpose of a prayer for the peace for the endangered world. This genuine resolution of the Pope, prepared in the climate of concern, finished, obviously, with a full success, and maintained, certainly, all doctrinal protections against which everybody was warned. In this way, the initiative, seeming dangerous in the beginning, was inscribed in the rhythm of functioning of the Catholic Church, and specifically, in a defined pontificate. But only in this Polish pontificate?

Assisi after 25 years

The successor of the Polish Pope had a beaten path not in one case, which he willingly used. And it was so with the matter of the prayer’s meeting in Assisi. Any fears and doubts declined and a safe and ambiguity-free formula of the meeting was set. After 25 years, since the first and sensational meeting, that enthusiasm and religious and social climate have reappeared. But strangely enough, the reasons for this meeting got actualized anew. Then the world was dominated by the climate of the world concern and dangers of the primitive materialistic atheism and unscrupulous terrorism. At present, although in a new form, the fight against God and religion is spreading, violence and material values are favoured, and justice is infringed. Mobilization of religious people concerned about the peace and justice, built through a dialogue and prayer, is an obvious thing suggesting an urgent need of a while.
The Jubilee meeting in Assisi hardly wandered away from the formula of the first meeting, from the formal point of view. However, there were some new elements worth attention. So there was a common trip of the participants to Assisi from Rome by train. There was an individual prayer of the representatives of particular religious traditions. There was the Lent and there was a delegation numbering 300 people this time and which represented different religious traditions including the patriarch – the leader of Constantinopole, and the Head of the Anglican Church and other Christian beliefs under the leadership of Benedict XVI. But this time also agnostics sincerely looking for God were invited. Those all delegates were received by the Pope on the following day in Vatican in the Clementine Hall, and then there was a party prepared by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

The most important messages

On the first day of the meeting in Assisi, the Pope’s significant sermon on the contemporary sense of days of the prayer for peace deserves a special attention. The Pope emphasized a wonderful fruit of the first prayer meeting about peace in a great way, in the form of a downfall of the Berlin Wall, after three years since that event, and at the same time, he relieved the tension of the threat of a conflict hanging over the humankind, and which was the existence of both military blocks. Another great issue mentioned in the sermon was the matter of using religion for violence and war. According to the Pope, it is a radical misunderstanding in learning about the essence of religion. For, religion is supposed to serve the peace but not to justify the violence. The third great problem was the matter of eliminating God from the man’s life and its direct consequence which is the human destruction. The examples of that were two totalitarian regimes with their criminal attitude towards the man and the mankind. The fourth issue was the matter of objecting to the war on the path of the economics itself and on whose basis there is a problem of the threat of drugs especially for the young generation.
And, finally, there was the last topic motivating the invitation of agnostics. If they are sincerely looking for God, they can as well be close to God. This day was ended by the Pope’s appeal to religious people in order not to use false persons of religiousness to make it difficult for people to find the real God.
This report on the essence of the significant sermon is only a short summary of the great pronouncement of the Pope, which shows its significance when it is read in a whole. At the end the Pope stated that the meeting had showed the basic role of a spiritual element in building peace.
In this way, the Jubilee celebration of the first meeting in Assisi, which was not deprived of the elements of paradox, was realized. There’s a fact which deserves a special emphasis that this great religious-peacetime-dialogical event is the fruit of the Polish Pope’s intuition and the fruit which, as it is seen, is inscribed into the rhythm of the life of the Church for ever.


"Niedziela" 46/2011

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: