Pope's U.S. Interreligious Meeting to Focus on Peace

200 Leaders Called to Live the "Heart of All Religions"

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WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 6, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict's XVI's scheduled meeting with interreligious leaders during the Pope's visit to the United States next month will focus on what is at the heart of all religions, says Bishop Richard Sklba.



Auxilary Bishop Sklba of Milwaukee, the chair of the U.S. episcopal conference's Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, said this about the Holy Father's April 17th meeting with 200 religious leaders during his April 15-20 visit to the United States.

Following the theme, "Religions Working for Peace," the Holy Father will meet and address members of Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Jain and Hindu communities at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C.

"The cry for peace in our world calls for religious bodies to come together," Bishop Sklba explained. "This meeting denotes the Holy Father's belief in the need for religious bodies to stress the goal for peace, which lies at the heart of all religions."

The meeting, Bishop Sklba continued, "exemplifies what must happen all over the world."

After the Pope's address, the interfaith leaders will greet the Holy Father and then present him with symbolic gifts by young members of each community.

The gifts that will presented to the Holy Father are symbols of the path to peace found in the deepest teachings of each group.

From the Jewish community, a silver menorah with seven lights, symbolizing the perennial validity of God's covenant of peace.

The Muslim community will present a small, finely crafted edition of the Quran. The Jain community will give a metallic cube representing the Jain principles of non-violence and respect for diverse of viewpoints as a way to peace through self-discipline and dialogue.

From the Hindu community, the sacred syllable Om on a brass incense burner will be presented. Hindu's believe the Om is the primordial sound of creation itself, by which God's liberating peace is made known.

The Buddhist community will give Benedict XVI a bronze bell cast in Korea. Various Buddhist cultures believe the sound of the bell marks off times of meditation, which lead to inner peace and enlightenment.