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Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace View Comments
By Pat McCloskey, OFM

In the piazza outside the Lower Basilica of St. Francis, Pope Benedict XVI and participants renew
their commitment to work for peace and justice in the world.

ATTRACTED BY the peacemaking St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Benedict XVI, 300 representatives of Christianity and other world religions and four philosophers who identify themselves as nonbelievers gathered in Assisi on Oct. 27. This was the 25th anniversary of Blessed Pope John Paul II’s historic gathering to commit religious leaders to work for world peace. The day was organized by the pontifical councils for justice and peace, culture, interreligious dialogue and the promotion of Christian unity.

Official participants went by train with the pope to Santa Maria degli Angeli, the Assisi suburb named for the nearby small chapel that St. Francis rebuilt in 1206. A video of the 1986 ecumenical and interfaith event was shown. After representatives of the Anglicans, Greek Orthodox, Armenians, World Council of Churches, Grand Rabbinate of Israel, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists gave testimonies for peace, professor Julia Kristeva, a Bulgarian-born humanist, philosopher and psychoanalyst, spoke.

Writing for Catholic News Service, John Thavis reported Kristeva’s call to create forms of cooperation between Christian humanism and the humanism of the Enlightenment, a risky path but one worth taking. She called Pope John Paul II “an apostle of human rights.”

Pope Benedict XVI then observed that the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall was a victory of freedom, “which was also, above all, a victory of peace.” Noting that some people have used freedom for violence, the pope admitted “with great shame” that some Christians have tried to promote religion violently, contradicting religion’s true purpose. He said that gross violations of human rights have occurred when God’s role in human development has been denied.

Following a frugal meal in the adjoining St. Mary of the Angels Friary, official participants went to rooms in a nearby guesthouse for reflection and personal prayer.

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Pat McCloskey, O.F.M., the Franciscan editor of this publication, attended the 1986 event in Assisi. His 12-talk series, “Sinful Priests, Scandal in the Church and the Hope of St. Francis,” was recently published by Now You Know Media.

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Conversion of St. Paul: Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted, like the strength of a boxer swinging wildly. Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a few years older. But he had acquired a zealot’s hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the Church: “...entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment” (Acts 8:3b). Now he himself was “entered,” possessed, all his energy harnessed to one goal—being a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others experience the one Savior. 
<p>One sentence determined his theology: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5b). Jesus was mysteriously identified with people—the loving group of people Saul had been running down like criminals. Jesus, he saw, was the mysterious fulfillment of all he had been blindly pursuing. </p><p>From then on, his only work was to “present everyone perfect in Christ. For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me” (Colossians 1:28b-29). “For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and [with] much conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5a). </p><p>Paul’s life became a tireless proclaiming and living out of the message of the cross: Christians die baptismally to sin and are buried with Christ; they are dead to all that is sinful and unredeemed in the world. They are made into a new creation, already sharing Christ’s victory and someday to rise from the dead like him. Through this risen Christ the Father pours out the Spirit on them, making them completely new. </p><p>So Paul’s great message to the world was: You are saved entirely by God, not by anything you can do. Saving faith is the gift of total, free, personal and loving commitment to Christ, a commitment that then bears fruit in more “works” than the Law could ever contemplate.</p> American Catholic Blog If you’re confused as to why God would die for you, you either need to rethink your vision of His mercy or of your own worth.

 
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