Historic meeting of reconciliation between world religious leaders
An event, described as "historic" and attended by the Pope, leading Christians, rabbis and representatives of the Muslim religion took place this weekend.
At the end of the musical event, called a "Concert of Reconciliation" John Paul II addressed the audience, saying that believers of the monotheist religions "cannot accept that the earth be afflicted by hatred, that humanity be troubled by endless wars."
The papal address was heard by, amongst others, Israel's Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and the secretary general of the World Islamic Call Society, Mohammed Ahmed Sharif. Also present were representatives of the Orthodox Churches, the Federation of Evangelical Churches, and the Anglican Communion.
"The history of relations among Jews, Christians and Muslims is characterized by lights and shadows and, unfortunately, has known painful moments," said the Pope.
"Today the pressing need is felt for a sincere reconciliation among believers in the one God," he said.
"Together, we express the hope that people will be purified of the hatred and evil that constantly threaten peace, and that they will be able to extend to one another reciprocally hands free of violence but ready to offer help and comfort to those in need."
"The Jew honors the Almighty as 'protector of the human person,' and God 'of the promises of life,'" he said. "The Christian knows that love is the reason why God enters into relationship with man and that love is the response awaited from man. For the Muslim, God is good and is able to fill the believer with his mercies."
"Nourished by these convictions, Jews, Christians and Muslims cannot accept that the earth by afflicted by hatred, that humanity be troubled by endless wars," he added.
The concert commemorated the first meeting of religious leaders for peace, in Assisi, at which the Pope presided 18 years ago.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, gave the opening address.
He highlighted John Paul II's important gestures to foster reconciliation between the "children of Abraham", such as the Pope's visit to the synagogue of Rome in 1986, his prayer at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall in 2000, the visits to Cairo's Al Azhar University (also during the Jubilee year), and to the Umayad Mosque in Damascus in 2001.
John Paul II has been the first Pope since the Apostle Peter to visit a synagogue and the very first to step into a mosque.
The "Concert of Reconciliation" was held one day after John Paul II received the two chief rabbis of Israel, Ashkenazi Yona Metzger and Sephardic Shlomo Amar. The Israeli Embassy to the Holy See described the meeting as "historic."