10/27/2011, 00.00
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Pope leaves Vatican train station bound for Assisi 2011

The Day of "pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace” has begun. Together with the pope, 300 delegates from over 50 countries worldwide. At least 100 are from Asia, the Muslim presence is growing. Unlike Assisi 1986, this time there are also representatives of those who do not belong to any religion, but who are “searching for the truth". No common prayer. The arrival in Assisi scheduled for 9.45.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Benedict XVI left the Vatican on board a train bound for Assisi, where for a Day of Reflection dialogue and prayer for peace and justice. The meeting takes place 25 years after the historic day convened by John Paul II in 86.

The pontiff arrived at the Vatican station and after greeting those present, boarded a high speed Italian Railways train. Several religious representatives are in the carriage with the Pope, including the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople and the Anglican primate, Rowan Williams.

The train left the Vatican station 8am and is due to arrive in Assisi at around 9.45. During the journey, the train will slow down in some intermediate stations-Terni, Spoleto and Foligno - to greet the faithful gathered along the way.

According to information from the Vatican, Assisi will be attended by some 300 representatives of world religions, from 50 different nations. This time, unlike Assisi 1986 there will also be non-believers, who "the search for truth." Among these Bulgarian-born linguist and psychoanalyst Professor Julia Kristeva, who lives in Paris, Prof. Bodei Remo, Professor of the History of Philosophy in Pisa (Italy), Guillermo Hurtado, the Mexican philosopher who studied at Oxford, Walter Baier, Austrian economist, member of the Austrian Communist Party.

There are 31 Christian representations, 176 representatives of non-Christian religions, as well as some Jewish delegations.

The group from Asia is particularly large: 18 people from the Indian sub-continent (Hindus, Baha'is, Sikhs, Jains, Zoroastrians), Buddhists from all 67 countries of Southeast Asia and the Far East (there will be a Buddhist representative of the Republic of China), Confucians from South Korea, Taoists from Hong Kong, Shinto from Japan.

The representations from Islamic countries from the Middle East, from Southeast Asia and Europe are also large. In Assisi 1986, there were only 11 Muslim representatives, today there are 50.

The theme chosen by Benedict XVI for the Day is "Pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace."
The pope has launched the idea of another Assisi meeting on the World Day of Peace last January 1st. In his Message for the Day, he highlights that threats to peace come from terrorism (religious), that uses the name of God to destroy, and relativism and secularism that marginalize faiths from society.

The Assisi pilgrimage aims to highlight that religions are not the instruments of war and those who believe in God cannot want violence.

At the same time, the meeting between the representatives of religious and nonreligious members, aims to stress that religions have a role to play in society and that the search for truth, even by those who do not share any faith, implies openness and respect for the religious dimension.

The Day will have a public meeting in Santa Maria degli Angeli, (St. Mary of the Angels), with various interventions. Then there will be a frugal meal in the Franciscan monastery and then time devoted to rest and personal prayer. In the afternoon there will be a silent pilgrimage to the church of St. Francis, where the meeting will conclude with a message for peace.

Another difference with the Assisi of Pope John Paul II, is the lack of common prayer, or parallel prayer, to avoid misunderstandings or risks of syncretism or relativism. This time prayers will be said personally, each in his or her own room.

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