Assisi III: Too Much and Not Enough

Large interfaith gatherings can often be fraught with long-simmering tensions, just ask the folks who put on the Parliament for the World’s Religions, but it is generally thought that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. That getting leaders and clergy of the major religions in the same room to find common ground and common understanding will bring dividends of lasting peace (or at least bring about greater tolerance). Yesterday, in Assisi, Italy the Catholic Church sponsored a massive interfaith gathering, the third such gathering to directly involve a sitting Pope (hence, “Assisi III” in Catholic circles), and the 25th anniversary of the first such meeting. In his address to the gathering, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged that Christianity has used violence to achieve its ends, and that this is against the spirit of his faith.

“As a Christian I want to say at this point: yes, it is true, in the course of history, force has also been used in the name of the Christian faith.

The Smearing of Assisi

Every year since 1986 the Franciscans in Assisi, Italy hold an interfaith gathering. At that first gathering Pope John Paul II met and prayed with representatives of several faith traditions, spurring vocal criticism from then-Cardinal Ratzinger.

“This cannot be the model!” an indignant Ratzinger told a German newspaper at the time. A year later he said the meeting left the impression that all religions are equally valid, which is “the definitive rejection of truth.”