Pope Benedict XVI has announced a gathering in Assisi of top leaders of all the world’s faiths to work together for peace following a wave of attacks on Christian minorities.
The 83-year-old Pope made the surprise announcement at the Angelus in St Peter’s Square on New Year’s Day, which the Church marked as the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God and forty-fourth World Day of Peace. It came just hours after a midnight terrorist bombing killed 21 people outside a Coptic church in Egypt.
The gathering of religious leaders next October in Assisi will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the historic interfaith prayer meeting that John Paul II held in St Francis’ home town on 27 October 1986. But Pope Benedict’s decision to repeat the event is particularly significant given the fact that as cardinal-prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he had voiced serious reservations about Pope John Paul’s original initiative, expressing concerns that it could be used to support syncretism and religious relativism.