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Rome Reports

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Pope arrives to Assisi: Greets 500 participants of interreligious meeting one-by-one

Shortly before noon, the pope arrived at the Sacred Convent of Assisi for the World Day of Prayer for Peace organized by the Sant'Egidio Community. His arrival caused much emotion among the main leaders participating in this event: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople; Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Aphrem II; Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby; chief rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni; Abbas Shuman, deputy head of the most important university of the Islamic world, Al-Azhar University in Egypt. The pope entered the courtyard of the convent where other participants were waiting for him. There were some Yazidis, the other victims of the persecution of the Islamic State. "Thank you for praying for us and for working against Genocide.� The pope greeted the Grand Dukes of Luxembourg and the representative of the Orthodox Church in Albania, which traditionally converses with Catholics, Muslims and atheists. "You serve as models of dialogue and help people. You gathered everyone together.� As he greeted everyone down the line, he found many familiar faces, such as the chief rabbi of Turkey, whom he met during his trip to his country. "The first time you were in my city and now I am in your city. God bless you.� There were several representatives of Islam, such as this one from Belgium, whom the pope thanked for his condemnation of the attacks, and the Emir of Nigeria, who left a senior position in a bank to engage in interreligious dialogue. "He understood that dialogue is more important than wealth.� The meeting in Assisi also included people of many other religions and Eastern traditions. "For me, you are a blessing.� This Buddhist attended the first meeting for peace organized by Pope John Paul II nearly 30 years ago. "It's me.� There were many Catholics who are heroes of interreligious dialogue and helping people, such as this religious woman that rescues child soldiers. One-by-one, the pope stopped to greet the 500 participants and later had lunch with some of them. He saved a spot for twelve refugees and a family. "She is Maria. She is Syrian.� "You are our hope.� "She loves you, she said you are a symbol for peace.� The organizers of this meeting and members of religions do not intend on organizing a theological debate about faith. Instead, they hope to show that what unites those who believe in God is the certainty that we must build peace. JMB/YA