A powerful prayer for world peace is heard in Assisi

At the Church of St Francis of Assisi, Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios sat on the right of Pope John Paul II with an oil lamp lighting the text of his prayer. The two religious leaders joined their voice with those of 300 religious leaders from around the world – Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists and all other religions, to spread the message of peace. They arrived in Assisi after a two-hour train journey from the Vatican and were welcomed by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who kissed the pope’s hand. This prayer meeting of religious leaders was held in memory of the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, that cost so many thousands of lives and so much pain to the victims’ families and friends. The patriarch’s prayer focused on the urgent need for peace with God, and with oneself and others. He said we had a duty even now, after the Holocaust, to become aware of the spiritual and economic conditions for peace on earth. These, he said, were justice, respect for the sanctity of our fellow human beings and their freedom and dignity. On Friday at 10.30 a.m., Vartholomaios was to have a private meeting with the pope in the Vatican before returning to the Patriarchate in Istanbul’s Phanar district in the afternoon. The patriarch’s visit to Basle, in Switzerland, for the opening of an Orthodox church – built thanks to a Greek benefactress who wishes to remain anonymous – gave him the opportunity to raise the question of the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece. At a dinner in his honor given by the Greek Consul-General Aikaterini Loupa, he said that the breaking up of a work of art was a «knife in the heart.» He said he hoped that a spirit of artistic aesthetics and culture would prevail, far removed from arguments of property ownership. The patriarch hoped that everyone would help so that this work of art, that was the property of all humankind, would be restored to its original glory. The dinner was attended by Greek Ambassador Eleftherios Danelis, Greece’s Representative to the UN in Geneva Dimitris Karaistidis, and other official guests.

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