Sant'Egidio Leader Hopeful as Meeting Opens in Sicily

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PALERMO, Sicily, SEPT. 1, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The Sept. 11 attacks did not bury interreligious dialogue, says a leading lay Catholic who shrugs off talk that cooperation between Westerners and Muslims is a naive idea.



Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Sant'Egidio, an ecclesial movement that promotes peace and charitable works, delivered that message at the opening of the 16th Men and Religions meeting.

The meeting of world religious leaders is organized by Rome-based Sant'Egidio and runs today through Tuesday. It aims to keep alive the spirit of the Days of Prayer for Peace, called by John Paul II in Assisi.

The motto on this occasion is "Religions and Cultures Between Conflict and Dialogue." The meeting has attracted 450 representatives, including Russian Orthodox, Jews, Muslims and Palestinians.

Riccardi's optimism about interreligious dialogue was shared by Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi, archbishop of Palermo, during the opening Mass in the city's cathedral.

Round-table discussions begin Monday. Mario Marazziti, spokesman of Sant'Egidio, said: "Here, dialogue not only seems possible, but is a necessity that emerges between the believers of the different religions and is capable of overcoming the hatred and mistrust that are accumulating."