ASSISI, Italy – Declaring that religious people must repudiate violence after the Sept. 11 attacks, Pope John Paul II led an extraordinary assembly of patriarchs and imams, rabbis and monks Thursday in this historic hilltop town in praying for peace.
Buddhist chants and Christian hymns resounded inside a huge plastic tent decorated with a single olive tree, a symbol of peace, in the home of St. Francis, the medieval monk associated with peace.
About 200 religious leaders accepted the pope’s invitation to the daylong retreat and agreed on a joint, 10-point pledge proclaiming that religion must never be used to justify violence.
John Paul, looking down at a display of turbans, veils and yarmulkes from a red-carpeted stage, said religious leaders must fend off “the dark clouds of terrorism, hatred, armed conflict, which in these last few months have grown particularly ominous on humanity’s horizon.”
He called it “essential” that religious people “in the clearest and most radical way repudiate violence, all violence, starting with the violence that seeks to clothe itself in religion.”
It was one of the largest gatherings ever of Christian groups, bringing together Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, Quakers and Mennonites, among others, as well as Orthodox Christians led by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.
They joined representatives of 11 other religions: Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Jianism, Confucianism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism and followers of Tenrikyo and African tribal religions.
Copyright ©2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.