Aachen (Fides Service) – With a solemn Mass for Peace presided by German Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, held at the Catholic cathedral of Aachen built in 786 by Charlemagne, the 17th ‘Meeting of Peoples and Religion’ organised by the S. Egidio Community opened on Sunday 7 September. The theme of the meeting was “Between war and peace: religions and cultures meet”. The ancient cathedral was filled to capacity with representatives of different religions and different Christians, Catholic and Orthodox bishops and Patriarchs of ancient eastern Churches, Protestant pastors, a delegation from the Patriarchate of Moscow led by Metropolita Kyrill of Smolensk and Kalingrad.
Bishop Heinrich Mussinghoff of Aaachen said: “God is not Catholic, or Orthodox, or Lutheran, or Christian or Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist, God is God for everyone”. Then it was the turn of the Metropolitan of Ecumenical Patriarchate Augoustinos who affirmed: “We Christians have yet to understand fully the language of friendship and peace: we must open to each other and open tot he world and overcome deafness and dumbness “.
Andrea Riccardi, founder of the S. Egidio Community reminded those present that these meetings are the heritage of the history making Interreligious Day for Peace in Assisi 1986 convoked by Pope John Paul II. “The unbearable heat of war brought forth a message of peace from within the different religions. In Assisi we set out on a journey which is leading religions to break all ties of solidarity with war.” The search for peace makes each one look into the depth of their heart and assumes also a universal dimension. “Peace is a global expression which embraces spiritual and political life, relations between peoples and countries. While it speaks of prayer it does not disdain the concrete history of peoples.” Riccardi also stressed that “any building which unites peoples has need of the spirit. Europe, which today is strengthening its union, must remember that at its roots lies peace among nations which have been at war with each other…the proposed convention of Europe has overlooked the spiritual and Christian roots, made no reference to the Shoa…to make Europeans convinced citizens of this Union we need strong sentiments, significant roots, shared passions”. And among these peace has a fundamental place.
“I am firmly convinced that we will be able to overcome the rumours which consider a clash of cultures inevitable” said German President Johannes Rau in a message to the Meeting. “Dialogue for coexistence in our world is as important as the air we breath” and “to recognise one’s own spiritual and cultural roots is a fundamental condition for open and sincere dialogue with others”. Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva recalled in a message the many victims of the many wars all over the world, including the late Sergio Veira de Mello, United Nations envoy in Iraq and he underlined the importance that many voices are raised to call for peace, denounce the consequences of war and he concluded: “The only legitimate war is the war on poverty”, SL (Fides Service 8/9/2003 EM lines 40 Words: 543)