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Assisi silent prayer suits Asian Church

Thai monsignor stresses dialogue among different faiths does not mean syncretism

Alessandro Speciale, Vatican

Alessandro Speciale, Vatican

Published: October 26, 2011 05:35 AM GMT

Updated: October 26, 2011 08:59 AM GMT

Assisi silent prayer suits Asian Church

The silent, personal prayer that will mark this year's interfaith meeting in Assisi hosted by Pope Benedict XVI is something very much in line with Asian religiosity, a top Vatican official responsible for interreligious dialogue told ucanews.com this week. Monsignor Andrew Thanya-anan Vissanu, the Thai-born undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said that “we Asian people, we pray in silence. Silence is in itself a way of prayer,” and it is probably “more powerful,” Thus, he added, the initiative to do away with public prayers by the different religious communities, as in the first such gathering called for by pope John Paul II in 1986, in favor of a moment of private prayer has been well received by Asian religious leaders. Monsignor Vissanu is responsible for dialogue with Buddhism at the Pontifical Council. “The Holy Father would like to invite people to make a pilgrimage in search for the truth, and to a reflection into our soul about the truth. It is also important to avoid suggesting that dialogue means syncretism or relativism,” He said that for the first time the “Peace Pledge” that marks the culminating moment of the interfaith meeting will be recited in Chinese by a Taoist representative from Hong Kong. He also added that for the first time there will be a delegation from mainland China in Assisi: a group of monks from Shaolin Monastery in Henan, led by Great Abbot Shi Yongxin. Monsignor Vissanu said the selection of delegations invited to Assisi was conducted in close consultation with local Churches and bishops' conferences. “We underline all the time that the dialogue doesn't happen here in Rome, in via della Conciliazione Number 5 [the address of the Pontifical Council]. Real dialogue has to be in the local Church” and involves “the way of living, the people. It is a dialogue of life.” The Asian contingent at the Assisi gathering will include 68 Buddhist representatives from 11 countries, three Confucians, three Taoists, 17 Shintoists and 13 representatives from four new religions in Japan. As well, some 18 representatives from India representing Hinduism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, Bahaism and various traditional religions will be in attendance, including Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Rajmohan and anti-corruption activist Swami Agnivesh, a close associate of Anna Hazare. A list of Muslim participants is in the process of being finalized. Monsignor Vissanu said interfaith dialogue in Asia rests on three pillars: identity, because “those who enter dialogue must know above all their own identity,” diversity, because “we live together in this world,” and finally multiplicity, meaning the beauty of the “mystery of God and God’s love through His creation.” Related reports: Pope rejects Assisi public prayer

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