In a message to the 17th International Meeting of Prayer for Peace, the Pope said that in a world that urgently needs unity, the people of various religions and cultures are called to discover the importance of meetings and dialogue as means to build peace.
"This is the secret of the Aachen Meeting," the Holy Father said in the message sent through Cardinal Roger Etchegaray to the members of the Churches and Christian communities and of the great world religions, meeting here through Tuesday. The motto of the three-day event is "Between War and Peace: Religions and Cultures Meet."
The Aachen meeting is a further stage in the initiative begun by the Pope in 1986. That was when he called a gathering of world religious leaders to Assisi, Italy, to pray for peace as a "concrete and visible" expression of the "vision of Blessed John XXIII" in the 1963 encyclical "Pacem in Terris."
However, "that longing was not taken up with the necessary speed and solicitude," John Paul II said in his message. "Too little has been invested these years to defend peace and uphold the dream of a world free of wars."
Recalling the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on New York, John Paul II said: "Unfortunately, together with the towers it seems that many hopes of peace also fell."
"Wars and conflicts continue to prosper and disturb the life of many nations, especially of the poorest countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America," he added. "I am thinking of the dozens of wars still in progress and of the widespread 'war' that terrorism represents."
John Paul II believes that meetings such as Aachen's, organized by the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio, "are an answer" to the need for a pacified world because "every year people of different religions meet, get to know one another, dilute tensions, learn to live with others and to have a joint responsibility for peace."
"The name of the one God must become increasingly what it is: a name of peace and a summons to peace," he added, quoting from No. 55 of his apostolic letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte."
"This is why we must intensify our meetings and project solid and shared foundations of peace" which "disarm the violent, call them to reason and respect, and cover the world with a network of peaceful sentiments," the Pope continued.
"With you, dear Christian brothers and sisters, we follow the dialogue with determination," he said. "May this third millennium be a time of union around the one Lord. The scandal of division can no longer be tolerated: It is a repeated 'no' to God and to peace."
The Holy Father continued: "Together with you, illustrious representatives of the great world religions, we want to intensify the dialogue of peace: Raising our gaze to the Father of all peoples, we acknowledge that the differences do not drive us to confrontation, but to respect, to loyal collaboration, and to the building of peace."
"With you, men and women of secular tradition, we feel that we must continue in dialogue and love as the only way to respect the rights of each one and to address the great challenges of the new millennium," he said.
"The world needs peace, much peace," the Pope added. "As believers, the way that we know to attain it is prayer to the One who can give peace. The way we can all follow is that of dialogue in love."