WASHINGTON (January 15, 2002) -- The Chairman of the Catholic Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs said Pope John Paul II's January 24 meeting with leaders of the world's religions in Assisi will coincide with the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and with various ecumenical observances in this country related to Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
"Indeed, we will have several occasions in the next month when we can gather with other Christians and also with Jews, Muslims, and members of other religious communities," Bishop Tod D. Brown wrote in a letter sent to the Bishops. Noting that each U.S. diocese will determine activities based on local circumstances, Bishop Brown sent materials to assist with these activities. They included Resources for Celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and Martin Luther King, Jr., and on Official Catholic Approaches to Interreligious Services of Prayer.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity occurs January 18-25. Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be observed this year on January 21. Both events are celebrated ecumenically although services for the national holiday might, on occasion, involve representatives of other faiths.
Pope John Paul II announced during the recitation of the Angelus last November 18 that he was inviting representatives of the world's religions to go with him to Assisi on January 24 to pray for peace. In particular, the Holy Father said he hoped to bring Christians and Muslims together to proclaim to the world that religion must never be a reason for conflict, hatred and violence.
According to the official Program for the Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, the Pope will board a train in Vatican City with 100 representatives of other religions and pilgrimage to Assisi. The program will be similar to other occasions when the Pope has been joined by religious leaders in promoting peace through prayer. There will be testimonials to peace by representatives of the Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Communion, the Churches originated by the Reformation, Hinduism, the Traditional African Religions, Buddhism, Judaism, and the Islamic World.
Bishop Brown wrote: "May January be a month of intense prayer when we strengthen our commitment to Christian unity, when we witness that greater Christian unity serves the proclamation of the gospel, and when we strengthen the bonds of friendship and promote peace."
NOTE: Additional information on theDay of Prayer for Peace in Assisi is available on the Vatican Web site, WWW.VATICAN.VA.