To my Venerable Brother
Edward Idris Cardinal CASSIDY
President of the Pontifical Council
For Promoting Christian Unity

I am particularly pleased to convey, through you as intermediary, my most cordial greetings to those who are taking, part in the twelfth Meeting of Prayer organized by the Community of Sant'Egidio on the theme: "Peace is the Name of God".I still recall with deep emotion that memorable day in Assisi, where for the first time in history, representatives of the great world religions gathered to ask for peace from the One who alone is able to grant it in all its fullness.

In the months which followed, I had the occasion to express the fýrm conviction that "on that day and in the prayer which was the reason and special content for it the hidden yet radical unity {...} among men and women in this world seemed for a moment to manifest itself in a visible way" (Address to the Roman Curia on the occasion of the exchange of Christmas greetings, 22 d December 1986).

This perspectÝve, which is substantially what I have called "the spirit of Assisi", had to be taken up and made known so as to create everywhere new forces for peace. On that day a new way was opened up and the Comrnunity of Sant'Egidio has followed it with courage, bringing with them on this same way more and more men and women of various religions and cultures. In this manner, the "perspective" of Assisi was experienced in several European cities, among them Warsaw, Brussels, Milan and last year Padua. It is not by chance that this pilgrimage, with its twelveyears old valuable experienee, has now reached Romania and has made a halt in Bucharest, a city that becomes in this circumstance the geographical center of Europe, and because of its rich culture and peoples should be able to help rebuild a widespread and harmonious unity from which no one is excluded.

I wish to greet all the people of Romania, to whom I feel close in spirit. I greet the President of the Republic and his Govemment, and I thank them for their invitation to come and visit Romania, an invitation that I hope to be able to accept. My thought goes in a especially fraternal way to His Beatitude Patriarch Teoctist, to the Metropolitans, Bishops and people of the Venerable Romanian Orthodox Church. With affection and esteem, greet the Bishops and Catholic communities of Romania, both of Byzantine or Latin rite, and exhort them to persevere courageously in giving witness to Christ and to his Gospel. I extend my fratemal greeting to all the other Christian confessions and Religions present in this noble country. The great encounter of Prayer for Peace is in perfect harmony with the singular vocation of Romania to be a bridge between East and West and to offer an originar synthesis of European cultures and traditions.

The remarkable presence of Venerable Patriarchs, Primates and Bishops of the Orthodox Churches makes this meeting highly significant for the whole of Christianity. I send them my fratemal and loving embrace of peace, so that they may transmit it to their beloved Churches. It is truly a precious gift that such outstanding representatives of Orthodoxy have gathered together today with representatives of the Catholic Church and other Christian communities of the West to reflect together on such an important theme. Their presence in this meeting, just at the threshold of the Third Millennium, encourages us to lift up our prayer to God with special trust that the world may see Christians "less divided". The more that we meet together and love one another, giving witness to the joy that unites us, the less difficult will be the path ahead. This meeting in Bucharest therefore presents itself as a true moment of grace. We need to be reminded, for ourselves as well as for the world, that what unites us is much stronger than that divides us.

This meeting, is of a special spiritual significance, since Christians are found side by side with representatives of the great world Religions. Also to them I wish to convey my respectful greetings. They know how much I esteem their religious traditions: on my apostolic travels I never omit to meet with their representatives, in recognition of the special mission which they carry out in different parts of the world. Being well aware of the important role that religions play in the life of the peoples of our time, such a numerous and experienced presence of representatives of these religions is a reminder of the need to emphasize the unity of the nations, to educate for peace and respect, to cultivate friendship and dialogue.

Yes, we do need such commitment. Unfortunately, even if we have witnessed remarkable progress along the way to peace in recent decades, we have also experienced the development of numerous conflicts: wars in different parts of the world often involving the poorest countries, thes worsening their already difficult situation. I'm thinking of Africa, martyrised by conflicts and by an endemic situation of instability. I'm thinking also of Kosovo, which is so near, and where already for too long a time entire populations have been suffering, atrocities and torture in the name of senseless ethnic rivalry. And finally I'm thinking of the peace processes that have begun in the Middle East and in other parts of the world, but are endangered by ever recovering difficulties. In the face of the proliferation of situations of war, we must develop new forces of peace, and here religions have a precious contribution to make. During the 1993 Meeting, which was held in Milan, the religious leaders who were present there signed an appeal which has lost none of its force:-"No hate, no conflict, no war should find an encouragement from religion. War can never be motivated by religion. May the words of religion always be words of peace May the way of faith open up to dialogue and understanding. May religions lead hearts to make this earth more peaceful ! May religions help all people to love the earth and all its peoples ! "

Religions manifest the universal aspiration for understanding and agreement which are born of a sincere love for God. This meeting has therefore most opportunely chosen as its sub-theme: "God, humankind and peoples", three realities that need to find an oceanic relationship. Every person and each people will discover their authentic vocation in the measure that they relate to the One who is above all and who accompanies every human being, towards a common future that in a certain way you already express in this meeting.

I entrust to you, my dear Cardinal, the mission of greeting each of the representatives of the Christian Churches and Communions, and of the great world religions, and of assuring all the participants of my affectionate remembrance, supported by a fervent invocation to the common Father that all the peoples of the earth, having abandoned the ways of violence, may take up the ways of peace.

From Castelgandolfo, 26th August 1998.
John Paul II