Religious Leaders Will Gather Thursday To Pray For Peace
The event, to be celebrated locally as well, calls for people of every faith to become "agents of peace" in a world torn asunder by religious differences.
"We come together for a common purpose," said Evansville Roman Catholic Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger, who will lead the local service. "To pray for peace and to be bonded together in our prayers for peace."
The local service, called the Interfaith Peace Vigil, will coincide with an interfaith pilgrimage to Assisi, Italy, that will be led by Pope John Paul II on Thursday.
More than 200 representatives of the world's 11 major religions will take part in the daylong pilgrimage to Assisi.
The pope called for the pilgrimage after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and claims by terrorist leader Osama bin Laden that the violence was committed in the name of Islam.
In a statement released by the Vatican, the pope said he hoped the event would show the world that religious beliefs can create solidarity, not conflict.
"Faced with the violence that rages in so many regions of the world today, (believers) feel the need to show that religions are a factor of solidarity, repudiating and isolating those who exploit the name of God for purposes and with methods that in reality offend him," he said in the statement.
Locally, the Interfaith Peace Vigil will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday at St. Benedict Cathedral.
Local representatives from Muslim, Jewish, Ba'hai, Unitarian, Catholic and other Christian faith groups plan to participate.
Gettelfinger said the gathering of faiths is significant given the historic divisiveness of religion.
"When we look back over the centuries we can see how religion was used as a reason for doing violence," said Gettelfinger. "The Roman Catholic Church is not exempt from that."
Gettelfinger said the gathering of a multitude of faiths in a single worship place doesn't diminish the differences between the faiths or dilute their teachings.
Instead, he said, it's an acknowledgement by people of all faiths that "peace is a gift from God."
"We invite people of every faith to join us," said Gettelfinger. "To pray not just for peace in our world, but to pray for peace to begin within each of us."
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