Wednesday, October 26, 2011

25 years ago: Representatives of 12 religions join Pope John Paul II at World Day of Prayer for Peace

He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination. Proverbs 28:9

And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand. Daniel 8:25

On October 27, 1986, representatives of 12 religions participated in the World Day of Prayer for Peace at Assisi, Italy, under the leadership of Pope John Paul II. As reported by Roberto Suro in The New York Times, October 28, 1986:

Assisi, Italy, Oct. 27--Spiritual leaders from 12 different religions gathered here today to offer individual prayers alongside Pope John Paul II, who had asked them to join him in a "World Day of Prayer for Peace."

Their efforts were described as at least partly successful...

...The governments of 60 countries, including Israel and Iraq, had sent messages supporting the idea, according to the chief Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who termed the truce initiative "a substantial success."...

...The "religious families" represented at the shrine here were Amerindian religions; the Bahai faith, an offshoot of Babism that stresses universal brotherhood; Buddhists; Christians; Jainists, a Hindu religion resembling Buddhism; Jews; Hindus; Moslems; Shintoists, a religion of Japan that emphasizes the worship of nature and ancestors; Sikhs; traditional African religions, and Zoroastrians, a religion founded in Persia that includes a belief in the continuous struggle of good against evil.

Among those attending were the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader; the Most Rev. Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of the Anglican Communion; Metropolitan Filaret of Kiev, who represented the Russian Orthodox Church; and Muneyoshi Tokugawa, president of the Shinto Shrine Association of Tokyo.

The religious leaders, who represented every major form of worship, were told by the Pope, "For the first time in history we have come together from everywhere."

Although united in their desire for peace, the 155 religious leaders who joined John Paul here on a blustery autumn day were clearly still divided by religion.

Scattered among Romanesque churches, Baroque chapels and Medieval palaces, the participants formed 12 groups this morning so that each faith could pray separately.

After fasting and meditating through midday, the participants marched through the steep stone streets until they arrived outside the basilica of St. Francis.

There, in a piazza that usually serves as a parking lot for tour buses, representatives of each religion offered a separate prayer while the others watched.

The Pope, conspicuous in his all-white cassock, sat with all of the non-Christians in a brightly colored array of dress to his left while on his right were the Christians in variations of black and purple as well as some simple business suits. Elio Toaff, Rome's Chief Rabbi, was the head of the Jewish delegation and sat at the end of the Christian section.

Just as a chilly rain began to fall, the religious leaders went to the refectory of the Franciscan monastery alongside the Basilica. They ate together there this evening from a menu that offered several choices carefully calculated to respect the great variety of dietary practices.

'Being Together to Pray'

Senior Vatican officials said that never before had such an array of religious figures participated in a single event.

At no time did all of the participating pray together. Instead, the Pope coined the phrase "being together to pray," to describe how they were united here while worshipping separately.

Welcoming the religious leaders this morning, John Paul said, "The fact that we have come here does not imply any intention of seeking a religious consensus among ourselves or of negotiating our faith convictions."

Yet, when the day was ending, the Pope asked, "If there are many and important differences among us, is it not true to say that at the deeper level of humanity, there is a common ground whence to operate together in a solution of this dramatic challenge of our age: true peace or catastrophic war?"

Prayer and the search for peace, he said, formed that common ground because all religions respect "the inner imperative of the moral conscience" and because "peace goes much beyond human efforts, particularly in the present plight of the world."

The day produced some extraordinary cultural encounters. For example, the Buddhists, led by the Dalai Lama, quickly converted the altar of the Church of San Pietro by placing a small statue of the Buddha atop the tabernacle and setting prayer scrolls and incense burners around it...

Accompanying the article in The New York Times was a sidebar from Associated Press titled Some Prayers for Peace:

Assisi, Italy, Oct. 27 (AP)--Representatives of 12 major faiths took part here today in the "World Day of Prayer for Peace." Here are excerpts from some of their prayers, as supported by the Vatican.

May all beings everywhere, plagued with sufferings of body and mind, obtain an ocean of happiness and joy.

May God protect us; may He nourish us. May we work together with energy. May our studies be fruitful. May we love each other and live in peace.

Peace and universal brotherhood is the essence of the gospel preached by all the enlightened ones of the past and of the future.

And the servants of the Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, "Peace."

Although the people living across the ocean surrounding us, I believe, are all our brothers, why are there constant troubles in this world? Why do winds and waves rise in the ocean surrounding us? I only earnestly wish that the wind will soon puff away all the clouds which are hanging over the tops of the mountains.

African Animist
Almighty God, the Great Thumb we cannot evade to tie any knot, the Roaring Thunder that splits mighty trees, the All-Seeing Lord up on high who sees even the footprints of an antelope on a rock mass here on earth: You are the one who does not hesitate to respond to our call. You are the cornerstone of peace.

American Indian
In smoking the pipe, I invite my family to smoke with me and you, my friends, to pray with me in thanksgiving for this day and for world peace. I will pray that we all may commit ourselves to pray and to work for peace within our families, our tribes, and our nations. I pray for all our brothers and sisters walking our mother earth.

Our God in heaven, the Lord of Peace will have compassion and mercy upon us and upon all the peoples of the earth who implore his mercy and his compassion, asking for peace, seeking peace.

I say to you that hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for hose who abuse you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and from him who takes away your cloak do not withhold your coat as well. Give to everyone who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again. And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.

On October 28, 1986, Carl McIntire, president of the International Council of Christian Churches, released a Statement on the Pope's Assisi Gathering for Peace, which was published in the Christian Beacon, October 23 and 30, 1986. The statement, which exhibited great discernment, read, in part:

Mother Teresa of Calcutta was added, and these groups represented, as claimed by the Vatican, 3.5 billion followers world wide, or 70 percent of the world population. The Vatican also released excerpts from some of the prayers..."An African animist snake worshiper whom the Pope met last year on a visit to Togo," prayed "Almighty God, the Great Thumb." In his prayer the witch doctor cursed "all the wicked persons who frustrate this laudable effort made to achieve peace...let all the evil ancestors and spirits receive their drink and flee to their doom."...The Christian prayer, as reported, did not include the name of God. There was no reference to Jesus Christ, and it made reference to the golden rule: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you."

...The Pope was correct in announcing that never before in church history had such an event occurred. His efforts to justify this on what he calls the "inner imperative of the moral conscience," seen as he believes in all religion, totally contradicts the Biblical revelation of the depravity of man and his total separation from God through his fall.

The Pope uses the instrument of peace to override the reality of the iniquity of man and the curse under which man abides with certain death appointed to all. peace is here used to destroy the revelation of God and the singular place that God has given to Jesus Christ as the only Saviour, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit.

The Pope ceased to be a church leader or a Christian leader. He operated only on a broad humanistic platform with appeals that could never, never approach Heaven or the ears of the Almighty.

Here was as great an abomination as has been seen in 2000 years of Church history.

A 20th century Elijah was needed to stand outside or walk the streets of Assisi denouncing the idolatry of the prophets in Assisi. God never heard the prophets of Baal, and He has made it clear that only in the name of Jesus Christ may men approach Him. It was Christ who said, "All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them." Buddha was before Christ, Zoroaster was before Christ. Mohammed came after Him, but demoted Jesus to the level of one of the prophets.

To represent the world, as the Pope did, with all these prayers, that this somehow, could affect the deity of deities in behalf of world peace, perpetrated a delusion and falsehood upon mankind.

The First Table of the Decalogue, which God gave to Moses, was trampled in Assisi. There God said, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." This Assisi prayer meeting for the gods falls under the condemnation of the living and true God, who said He was jealous. For God told Moses, "The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain."

The countenancing of graven images is forbidden in the Second Commandment: "Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me." The judgments of God will fall upon Assisi.

Instead of benefiting peace, this will aggravate the judgment of Almighty God. The Bible-believing Christians of the world are now confronted with the ultimate in the great apostasy which has stricken Christendom. The New Testament Christians were forbidden to be a part of idolatrous worship, and this movement which gave birth to the church was built upon the reality that as believers they were separating from everything that was represented in Assisi today and that they, when they met, would be conscious of Jesus Christ in heir midst because they owned only Christ as Saviour and Lord.

The magnitude of this co-operation and support of the Christian churches represented in the World Council of Churches, the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic, and the ease with which the pagans felt free to join them should shock and startle every person on the face of this earth who believes in the true and everlasting Gospel and the fact, as Peter emphasized, that "there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." The Pope gave no Christian witness to all these religious servants of darkness and the demons from the pit. The message from Assisi is that missionaries are not needed; the prayers of the Christians can all be offered together in their own way and God will grant answers. Israel was repeatedly told that God's ears were stopped to their cry because they made common cause with Baal and Ashtaroth and the gods of the Philistines. God's dealings with Israel, their 70 years of captivity in Babylon and the Fulfillment of Christ's prophecy for the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., all came because of the same kind of iniquity that was manifested in Assisi on October 27, 1986.

The faithful of the Lord, washed in His precious blood, now face the Pope and his legions who rallied behind his leadership as he projected himself as the man of peace for the nations.

The desire for peace which is so universal will be given and made secure when the Prince of Peace comes, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the great High Priest, seated at the right hand of the Father and who has promised to protect His own who come to God in His name and for His glory. Assisi 1986 is not a turning point. it is a culmination of the ecumenical current encompassing the pagan religions. it must be rejected at whatever price is necessary, and the true believers who can get through to God must pray that God will restrain, that His mercy may abound and that evil will be exposed and resisted as it is defined by the commands of the Holy Scripture.

The cry of all Christians now as they look at Geneva, the headquarters of the World Council of Churches, will be, "Remember Assisi: remember Rome." One World, the monthly magazine of the WCC, October '86, featured on its cover, "WCC-Roman Catholic Relations, 'Real though imperfect' communion on the road to unity."

Included in the lists of all who came were those from Moscow, Metropolitan Filaret, who is an agent of the KGB, the Soviet Secret Police.

October 27, 2011 update: The Vatican obviously hasn't forgotten to celebrate the 25th anniversary of this abomination. As reported by Jean-Louis De La Vaissiere of Agence France-Presse on October 27, 2011:

Religious leaders joined with Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday to denounce violence perpetrated in the name of their faiths, amid growing religious fanaticism across the world.

"No more violence, no more war, no more terrorism! Never again! In the name of God, that every religion bring justice and peace, forgiveness and life and love to the world!" the pope said at a ceremony in the Saint Francis basilica in Assisi, Italy.

The colourful crowd of religious representatives had taken a special train from Vatican City to Assisi, where Buddhist monks mixed with turbaned Sikhs, black-frocked patriarchs and Catholic cardinals in their red skull-caps.

The small group which waited under a leaden sky in the northern Italian city to meet them off the train was a far shout from the welcome crowd which greeted John Paul II at inter-religious councils in 1986 and 2002...

...Over 50 Islamic representatives were in attendance, alongside Jewish rabbis, Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, a Zoroastrian, a Bahai and delegates of Taoism, Confucianism and traditional religions from Africa and America.

In the vast basilica, which includes the tiny chapel where the animal-loving Francis died in 1226, dignitaries watched a film which looked back over the past 25 years to celebrate the anniversary of the first Assisi meeting.

The pallid 84-year-old pope seemed much smaller and more fragile than his guests, sitting between Bartholomew I, the Archbishop of Constantinople, and Rabbi David Rosen, representing the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

Addressing the delegates, the pontiff strongly denounced religious terrorism, describing it as "the antithesis of religion" which "contributes to its destruction."

He also expressed his shame for Christian acts of violence committed in the name of God in the past.

Kyai Haji Hasyim Muzadi, chairman of the International Conference of Islamic Scholars (ICIS), said that violence committed in the name of God included elements which "seem" religious but are "political, economical and cultural."

Professor Wande Abimbola, representing Africa's traditional faiths, called for them to be given the same respect as other religions and encouraged his fellow dignitaries not to underestimate the importance of nature.

"Until Mother Nature receives our attention, human beings will not be able to find the true peace and tranquillity we all search for," he said, before launching into a Yoruba hymn.

The gathering also received words of praise about interfaith dialogue from US President Barack Obama.

"Through interfaith dialogue, we can unite in common cause to lift the afflicted, make peace where there is strife, and find the way forward to create a better world for ourselves and our children," Obama said in a message.

The event however had been criticised by Catholic fundamentalists who are strongly against the idea of dialogue with other religions and accused the pontiff of "welcoming false religions."

In organising the "journey of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice", the Vatican had been careful to avoid any moments of common prayer.

The delegates were treated to a frugal lunch of rice, salad and fruit before withdrawing to spend a solitary hour and a half in individual monk cells, praying and reflecting on the day's themes.

Bartholomew I, who sat with the pope at lunch, expressed concerns over "the increased marginalisation of Christian communities in the Middle East."

"The only way to end the warmongering use of religion is to set ourselves up as mediators of the peace," he said.

That peace, according to Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, should be brokered as soon as possible in Jerusalem, a city that has fuelled other conflicts around the world, he said.

And as reported by Philip Pullella of Reuters on October 27, 1986:

Unlike in 1986, the gathering did not include common prayer among the delegates.

The difference reflected Benedict's more conservative view of Catholic relations with other religions. In fact, Benedict, who did not attend the 1986 meeting when he was a cardinal, later implicitly criticized it because it implied that all religions were somehow equal.

The 1986 meeting, which took place at a time of the Cold War and conflicts in Lebanon, Northern Ireland and Central America, was billed as a "meeting of prayer for peace."

Thursday's was called a "pilgrimage" for truth and peace and instead of praying in each other's presence, as they did in 1986, the delegates withdrew to various rooms around the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels in the lower part of Assisi for what the program called "silence, reflection and personal prayer."

Thursday's gathering included four people billed as "non-believers" -- agnostics the pope said had been invited to represent people in the world who have no faith but are "on the lookout for truth, searching for God."

He said such non-believers should not be confused with militant atheists, who, he said, live in the "false certainty" that there is no God.

The day was not without its moments of inter-religious challenges. A representative of African traditional religions appeared to chide the big churches for acting in a patronizing way.

"The time has come for the leaders of all the world's religions to have a new frame of mind in which indigenous religions are given the same respect and consideration as other religions," said Wande Abimbola of Nigeria.

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