Pope Francis to visit Assisi in September for interreligious summit
Shortly after Pope Francis’ visit to Assisi a few weeks ago, Mohamed Abdel Qader, the Imam of Perugia and Umbria who met with the Pope during the brief trip, hinted that another visit would take place soon. The Vatican has now confirmed that later this month, Pope Francis will make his second visit to Assisi for an interreligious summit for peace. Titled “Thirst for Peace: Religions and Cultures in dialogue,” the World Day of Prayer for Peace will run Sept. 18-20, and is being organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio in collaboration with the Franciscan family and the diocese of Assisi.
The visit on 20 Sep coincides with the 30th anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Peace that St. John Paul II convoked in Assisi in 1986. Pope Francis’ presence at the prayer summit will be his third time in Assisi, having first visited the city in Oct 2013 for the feast day of his namesake and more recently last month to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the “perdono” indulgence.
During this visit, Francis will pray and meet major Islamic and Orthodox leaders. Apart from Pope Francis, other special guests include Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and the rector of the prestigious al-Azhar University, Imam Ahmen al-Tayyeb. The Custos of the Sacred Convent of Assisi, Fr. Mauro Gambettilo, has confirmed that Sergio Mattarella, the Italian President, will also attend.
The president of the Community of Sant’Egidio, Marco Impagliazzo described the meeting as “a necessary encounter,” especially in the current global climate of conflict. “It will be a convergence of very high religious and institutional personalities: to show to all that religions are not indifferent to this cry which rises up from the people and to distance ourselves from preachers of hate, working in favor of the integration which is the key to defending our societies from violence.”
Since the start of his pontificate. Pope Francis has ensured that both interfaith and ecumenical dialogue are key priorities. Francis has met with Patriarch Bartholomew on several occasions and became the first Pope in history to meet with a leader of the Russian Orthodox Church when he embraced Patriarch Kirill last February while on his way to Mexico.
The Pope has also placed a strong emphasis on dialogue with Muslims and met with Egyptian Imam al-Tayyeb at the Vatican in May. The visit by a leading Sunni Imam paved the way for further dialogue and is seen as a big step forward in terms of Catholic-Muslim relations.