ThePopesentamessageto Cardinal Francis Arinze, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, today for the meeting of believers of various religious traditions,“in memory of the unforgettable Day of Prayer”(Oct. 27, 1986). The gathering, in Assisi, was an initiative of the Franciscan families.
“Religions,”wrote the Pope,“are called in a special way to cooperate with the commitment of all men of good will to strengthen peace in the world, and the prayer initiatives are a privileged instrument in this difficult walk towards reconciliation among peoples and nations.“
John Paul II pointed out that religions,“far from justifying hatred and divisions, must inspire their own followers to overcome the barriers of misunderstanding and prejudice, favoring the opening to others in reciprocal respect.“
“I hope that each one of you will know how to become a generous witness to the‘spirit of Assisi' in the milieu in which you live and work, drawing inspiration for your behavior in every circumstance from the values which all those present at the encounter 10 years ago unanimously shared.“
For the first time since his return from Gemelli Hospital, Pope John Paul appeared at his study window for today's Angelus and told the faithful:“Your presence confirms for me theaffectionwithwhichyoufollowed me in recent days, giving me comfort and support.”
“In fact,”he said, addressing the tens of thousands of people gathered inSt.Peter'sSquare, “duringmy recent hospital stay, I felt the lively and constant solidarity not only of brothers and sisters in Christ, but also of a number of followers of other religions and even of people who are distantfromthefaith.Iamdeeply moved and thank everyone from my heart.”
Noting that it was World Mission Day, the Holy Father said that this“missionregardsallChristians,all dioceses and parishes, institutions and ecclesialassociations.” Hethanked those who have“generously”contributed, through prayer, sacrifice and support, to missionary activity and added:“The mission of Christ Redeemer, entrusted to the Church, is far from being fulfilled. This is why the Church invites everyone to follow in the work of missionary cooperation.”
Afterprayingthe Angelus,the Holy Father appealed for the release of 30 students kidnapped in Uganda and asked for respect for the right to life in Poland.
“This Sunday of missionary prayerisunfortunatelyovershadowed by the news of the kidnapping of a large group of students in the Catholic school of Aboke in northern Uganda. Thirty young girls are at this moment in the hands of the kidnappers, while their respective families and the Catholic community are living hours of anguish about their fate. I appeal to the conscience of those responsible, so that an end might be put to the brutal kidnapping: respect the life and dignity of these young girls! In the name of God I ask for their immediate release.”
SpeakinginPolish,hethen recalledthat “todayKrakowand Poland are celebrating the solemnity of St. John of Kety.”After greeting his fellow Poles, he thanked them for the prayers offered for the anniversary of his election to the papacy and during his recent hospital stay.
“In this context,”he added,“I also thinkwithgratitudeofmyfellow Poles who, with dedication, defend the right to life of the most innocent and defenseless. Let us pray for our country so that every man's right to life from conception to natural death might be respected there. Allow me to now repeat once again the words I said on Sept. 1 of this year:‘A people who kill its own children is a people without a future’“
Today the Holy Father nominated, among others, the following Americans as ordinary members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences: Paul Berg, professor of genetics at Stanford University; Joshua Lederberg,professorofmolecular genetics at Rockefeller University in New York; Joseph Edward Murray, professorofsurgeryatHarvard Medical School; Vera Rubin, professorofastronomyattheCarnegie Institution in Washington, D.C.
Pope John Paul spoke from his window at 11:30 this morning and addressedthepilgrimsgathered below in St. Peter's Square, thanking them for their presence“for the traditional Wednesday general audience”andfor “theaffectionwhich,as always, you show me.“
“Thesedays,” hethensaid,“Christians are invited to reflect on the current relevance and urgency of their missionary commitment, both as individualsandasacommunity. Preciselytheknowledgeofthe Gospel's value for the salvation of the world induces every believer to be a witness to it, in whatever milieu he lives. We are all called to be evangelizers, that is, announcers of and witnesses to Christ.“