John Paul II: A Pilgrim on the Roads of the World

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Chapter Three:John Paul II: A Pilgrim on the Roads of the World

 

The Paradigm of Assisi

 

 

John Paul II and Inter-religious Dialogue


The Church’s journey  towards inter-religious dialogue took a definitive turn during the Pontificate of John Paul II. Ever since that unique encounter of Assisi on 27 October 1986 with the leaders of other religions to pray for peace in the World, the Pope encouraged inter-religious dialogue and gave personal witness through his encounters with leaders of other religions and with his good will to enter into a dialogue with them.

 

In his Encyclical letter, Redemptoris Missio, the pope affirmed that “Interreligious dialogue is a part of the Church’s evangelizing mission. Understood as a method and means of mutual knowledge and enrichment, dialogue is not in opposition to the mission and gentes; insdeed, it has special links with that mission and is one of its expressions’ (n.55) [1]

 

John Paul II in his Apostolic letter, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, announced that “the advent of a new millennium offers a great opportunity for inter-religious dialogue and for meeting with the leaders of the great world religions” (n.53). [2]

 

The World Assembly of Religions, held atVatican Cityfrom 24-29 October 1999, was yet another significant event. Francis Cardinal Arinze titled his opening address to the World Assembly of Religions as ‘World Religions: John Hands to Face Challenged.”

 

In the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Asia, John Paul II emphasized that “ecumenical dialogues and interreligious dialogue constitute a veritable vocation for the Church.” [4] “To guide those engaged in the process, the Synod suggested that a directory on inter-religious dialogue be drawn up.”[5] To put it in John Paul II’s words, “it is therefore important for the Church inAsia to provide suitable training for those involved.” The theme “interfaith dialogue” scored 43 out of the 191 interventions in the Synod forAsia.

 

On 3rd February, to the representatives of the cultural world and of the other religions in Calcutta, India, John Paul II said: “Joined in a new solidarity the intellectuals must respond to the challenges of our times.”[6] And on 10th February, during the homily at mass at Pontifical Atenaeum of Pune, the Pope forcefully affirmed that “truth united with love is the only force that can radically transform the world”.[7]

  

Assisi en Ever-living Icon of Inter-religious Dialogue

 

The Paradigmatic metaphor ofAssisiis John Paul II’s unique gift to the World. It is an ever-living icon and a lasting memorial of inter-religious dialogue. October 27, 1986 (Assisi-1), will forever remain as an unforegettable day in the history of humankind. On that memorable day, for the first time in history, representatives of religions gathered onAssisito pray together. By inviting the leaders of other religions toAssisi, John Paul II “acknowleged the legitimacy of other religions that they can mediate divine-human relationship in prayer which is therefore effective.” [8] John Paul II was indeed a champion of friendship and dialogue. [9]

 

Assisi-One, is certainly a landmark in the encounter of religions. To grasp the significance of this historical event, it should never be viewed as an isolated event. It has to open placed right in the midst of the many dynamic encounters that are taking place day after day in various pluri-religious communities. The unforegettable encounter ofAssisiassumes a profound meaning when seen in the light of many known and unknown documented and non-documented, planned and non-planned, premeditated and occasional daily encounters between believers of other religions that are taking place in various part of the world. People all over the globe are aware of the importance of coming together and working together for peace and harmony.

 

A Journey to Assisi

 

An imaginary journey toAssisi, in the spirit of openness and dialogue, soon will supply sufficient thought for reflection and practical action. The very name ofAssisiis filled with vibrations of peace. The peaceful atmosphere ofAssisi, overflowing with sacred memories of St. Francis, challenges of every pilgrim to a meaningful commitment to prayer, peace, reconciliation and harmony.

 

The day of prayer for peace on October 27, 1986, atAssisi, “offered the world a moving witness and was the prelude to continues to invite and challenge people of all religions.Assisidefinitely marked the beginning of an extraordinary story in the history of religions. Today, in the Spirit of Assisi, member the human family can dream of a new way of gathering. The way is new precisely because we have created space within our hearts to discover and appreciate believers of other religions. Again, it is new because we are ready to tune our hearts to listen to God who speaks in silence. It is new because there are a few common challenges that we can no more address only as individuals or as members of one single religious belonging. Today, there is a greater need for members of various religions to network together.

 

Assisi-One was a prophetic gesture of Pope John Paul II. “Prayer is the bond which most effectively unites us: it is through prayer that believers meet one another” (John Paul II, message for the 1992 World Day of Peace). Change is possible only when believers meet in prayer; communicate with each other and plan together to set goals and work together to achieve them. Dialogue goes much beyond devising new visions and strategies. It takes us back to the essensial core of our being; it touches our spirituality, our style of being and acting.

 

 

Assisi– One


A prophetic gesture of John Paul II

 

27 October 1986, the first and most surprising convocation of religious leaders atAssisi

Assisi– Two


9 January 1993

 

Peace on th Balkans

Assisi– Three


24 January 2002

“The first major world-involving event since theTwinTowerstragedy inNew York” – Fides.

Lamps of peace to light the future of humanity.

 

  

Assisimulticultural and multireligious is the most expressive image of the commitment of religions against every form of violence. On 27 October 1986, on 9 January 1993 and on 24 January 2002,Assisibecame the “heart of vast multitude of people calling for peace.”

 

Young people of the third millennium, young Christians, young people of every religions, I ask you to be like Francis of Assisi, gentle and courageous ‘guardians’ of true peace based on justice and forgiveness, truth and mercy.” – John Paul II

  

The Paradigmatic Metaphor of Assisi

 Thanks for John Paul II, with the paradigmatic metaphor ofAssisi, the Church, has offered a new icon to the World, the “Icon of Assisi”. This was done with the Participation of all world leaders.

 

“Never again violence! Never again war! Never again terrorism! In the name of God, may every religion bring to the earth justice, peace, forgiveness, life and love” – John Paul II

 

John Paul has spoken eloquently on the Church’s relationship with other religions: “The Church’s relationship with the other religions is dictated by a twofold respect for man in his quest for the action of the Spirit in man” RM n.29). This is respect for the human person is based on theological anthropology. The Spirit of God blows freely, breathing life and love, and “the breath of the Spirit creates witnesses of peace.” Encounter with believers of other religions is a very challenging task.

 

Other Religions constitute a positive challenge for the Church: they stimulate her both to discover and acknowledge the signs of Christ’s presence and of the working of the Spirit; as well as to examine more deeply her own identity and to bear witness to the fullness of revelation which she has received for the good of all. [11]

 

Dynamic interaction with believers of other religions challenges the Church to discover and acknowledge the signs of Christ’s presence and of the working of the Spirit. This indeed is a very delicate task. The person has to be fine-tuned to the rhythm of the Spirit. The Church, the people of God, is a community of love and service. Her identity is refined and made perfect in the measure in which she confirms herself to her Lord and Master Jesus Christ. Among the various services that the Church makes available to people, there is one that is really challenging: “to bear witness to the fullness of Revelation which she has received for the good of all.” Our neighbours, believers of other religions, want to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. And we are duty bound to make it known to them in its fullness. That we carry out this task effectively and competently, there is need of an ongoing study and assimilation of the Word of God. We have to establish intimate relationship with Jesus through personal and community prayer and reception of the sacraments.

 

Our encounter with believers of other religions demands that we are well informed of our religion and that of others. True dialogue can take place only in a climate of genuine openness of each other’s religion. Dialogue is an ongoing process.

 

St. Peter’s Square Rome – A Replica of Assisi

The funeral of John Paul II provided a concrete opportunity for inter-religious dialogue and for meeting with the leaders of the great religions. Members of various religions gathered at St. Peter’s Square,Rome, to pay their last tribute to the champion of dialogue. They came on their own. It was at the same Square that representatives of various religions pledged to unite to face challenges at the conclusion of the World Assembly of Religions (24-29 October 1999). John Paul II had shared with the participants the interest in dialogue among religions, which is one of the signs of hope.

 

Moreover, the strength of witness lies in the fact that it is shared. It is a sign of hope that in many parts of the world interreligious associations have been established to promote joint reflection and action. In some places, religious leaders have been instrumental in mediating between warring parties. Elsewhere common cause is made to protect the unborn, to uphold the rights of women and children, and to deferral the innocent. I am convinced that the increased interest in dialogue between religions is one of the signs of hope present in the last part of this century (cf. Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 46). Yet  there is a need to go further. Greater mutual esteem and growing trust must lead to still more effective and coordinated common action on behalf of the human family. [12]

 

Contemplation – the Power that Leads to Dialogue

Pope John Paul II was truly a champion of dialogue. The paradigm of Assisi, his unique gift to the world, is not merely just the theoretical expression. Examined in the light of his teaching and the light of his own vast experience in dealing with people of good will of every culture and religion. It is evident that this paradigm is a fruit of lived reality. In his Encyclical letter, Redemptorist Missio no. 91, the Pope courageously affirmed:

 

My contact with representatives of the non-Christian spiritual traditions, particularly those of Asia, has confirmed me in the view that the future of mission depends to a great extent on contemplation.[13]

 

The Pope’s words assumes greater significance when think through the prism of “ the terrestrial globe as a map of various religions” (Redemptor hominis, no.II). Contemplation has been identified as the professional secret for mission. Fixing our glance on Christ the Redeemer, assimilating  his message and living a life congruent with the value of the Kingdom are all part of contemplation. It is to that unforgettable meeting ofAssisiin 1986 that John Paul II returns to stress the common origin and common destiny of humanity:

 

Let me repeat here what I said at the end of that day of fasting and prayer:

 

The very fact  that we have come to Assisifrom various parts of the world is in itself a sign of this common path which humanity is called to tread. Either we learn to walk together in peace and harmony, or we drift apart and ruin ourselves and others. We hope that this pilgrimage to Assisihas taught us anew to be aware of the common origin and common destiny of humanity. Let us see in it an anticipation of what God would like the developing history of humanity to be: a fraternal journey in which we accompany one another toward the transcendent goal which he sets for us” (Address at the Conclusion of the World Day of Prayer for Peace, Assisi, 27 October 1986, 5).

 

Conclusion

 

What does acknowledging the paradigm ofAssisias John Paul II’s unique gift to the world mean today? It means to feel the growing need to unite members of various religions to work together for love, peace and unity. It means to strengthen one’s own religious identity. It is an invitation to become seekers of truth and enter into a dialogue with those whom we encounter. To carry out this dialogue effectively, each one need to discern carefully in order to respect each other’s identity without indulging in forms of syncretism.

 

It is up to us to create imaginaryAssisiin every corner of our society. Time and again, we can and must proliferate the genuine experience ofAssisi. Educational institutions are the prime places to pass on the precious paradigm ofAssisi. We must remember that John Paul II was a Pontiff in dialogue with the young and their educators.


 

Assisimulticultural and multireligious

 

Assisiis the most expressive image of the commitment of religious against every form of violence

 

“The breath of the Spirit creates witness of peace”

 

We listen to the words, we listen to the wind. The wind is the Spirit, we listen to the Spirit” -John Paul II

 

 

“Never again violence! Never again war! Never again terrorism! In the name of God, may every religion bring to the earth justice, peace, forgiveness, life and love”

-John Paul II

 John Paul II: A Pilgrim on the Roads of the World

 

 


“Through dialogue, the Church seeks to uncover the ‘seeds of the Word’, a ‘ray of that truth which enlightens all men’, these are found in individuals and in the religious traditions of mankind.

  

Other Religions constitute a positive challenge for the Church: they stimulate her both to discover and acknowledge the signs of Christ’s presence and of the working of the Spirit, as well as to examine more deeply her own identity and to bear witness to the fullness of Revelation which has received for the good of all” (Redemptoris Missio n.56).

 

  

“The Church’s relationship with the other religions is dictated by a twofold respect:

 Respect for man in his quest for answers to the deepest question of his life, and respect for the action of the Spirit in man’

(Redemptoris Missio n.29)



Teresa Joseph fma

From “John Paul II: A Pilgrim on the Roads of the World”

Celebrating 25 Years of the Paradigm ofAssisi

Assisi1986 – Assisi 2011

 

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  1. John Paul II, Encyclical letter Redemptoris Missio [RM] (7 December 1990)
  2. Ibid., Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente (10 November 1994) n.53
  3. Francis Arinze, World Religions: Join Hands To Face Challenges! (Opening address to World Assembly of Religions, Vatican City, 25th October 1999), 1-5
  4. John Paul II, Apstolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Asia, Vatican City, Editrice Vaticana (6 November 1999) n.29
  5. John Paul II,  Apstolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Asia, 94.
  6. L’Osservatore Romano, Domenica 2 febbraio 1986, XIII.
  7. Ibid., XXXIII
  8. Michael Madaladoss, Identity and harmony challenges to mission in South Asia (Conference, Sedos Missionary Congress, 3-8 April 2000,Rome), 3.
  9. Cf.Teresa Joseph, Pope John Paul II as we remember him in Indian tribute – Part 1 in The Herald, April 28-May 4, CXXXXII (2006) 17, 11.; Pope John Paul II as we remember him in Indian tribute – Part II in The Herald, May 5-11, CXXXXII (2006)18, 11.
  10. Ufficio Dell Celebrazioni Liturgiche Del Sommo Pontefice (a cura), Together for Peace,Assisi, 24 January, 2002, Tipografia Vaticana, 2002, 14.
  11. John Paul, Encylical letter Redemptoris Missio, n.56.
  12. John Paul II, Discorso del Santo Padre all’Assemblea Interreligiosa, Piazza San Pietro, 28 ottobre 1999 in http://www.vatican.va/holy father/john paul ii/speeches/1999/october/documents/hf jp-ii spe 281 01999 inter-religious-assembly en.html, n.4 (accessed on 4/4/2011).
  13. John Paul II, Encyclical letter Redemptoris mission no.91