When Pope Francis travels to Assisi next Tuesday to take part in a gathering of religious leaders to pray for peace, there will likely be two different reactions in various quarters, each of which risks missing the point.
For those unfamiliar with recent papal history, the gesture may well be seen as another maverick initiative by a break-the-mold pontiff, one already known for his unique style of outreach to constituencies long distant from the Catholic Church.
Those who do know the story of what happened under St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, on the other hand, may be tempted to see the Sept. 20 event as ho-hum. After all, this gathering marks the 30th anniversary of John Paul’s historic 1986 inter-faith summit in Assisi, an initiative he repeated in 1993 and 2002, and one that Benedict also presided over in 2011.
In between, the Community of Sant’Egidio, a movement in Catholicism devoted to conflict resolution, ecumenism and inter-faith dialogue, has organized inter-faith assemblies “in the spirit of Assisi” every year, and is the prime mover behind next Tuesday’s event.
In other words, one could say that these gatherings by now have become routine.
As is often the case with quick takes, both of those reactions capture something real.
Certainly, Pope Francis brings his own unique style to encounters with leaders of other religions. It’s less focused on healing the wounds of the past, as with John Paul, or exploring theological convergences and differences, as with Benedict, and more on practical action in the here-and-now on shared humanitarian and social objectives.
Read more at Crux.