(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is in Assisi, the hilltop town in central Italy where Saint Francis was born.
His one day visit to Assisi sees him taking part in the closing of the interreligious World Day of Prayer for Peace, organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio. The theme of the 3-day international meeting this year is “Thirst for Peace. Religions and Cultures in Dialogue”.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the First World Day of Prayer for Peace that St. John Paul convened back in 1986, an historic event which saw world leaders of different religions come together for the very first time to pray for peace.
The Pope travelled to Assisi by helicopter and after his landing near the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels where Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi and the local authorities greeted him, the Pope travelled by car to the Holy Convent of Assisi. Here he was welcomed by Father Mauro Gambetti, Custodian of the Holy Convent, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, a Muslim reprepresentative, Dr Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, the Syro-Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Efrem II, a Jewish representative and the Supreme Head of Tendai Buddhism (Japan). They then moved to the Cloister of Sixtus IV where the representatives of Christian denominations and World Religions were waiting.
Pope Francis greeted all participants at the World Day of Prayer for Peace before having lunch in the refectory of the Holy Convent, a lunch that was also attended by and refugees from Syria.
During the afternoon Pope Francis met individually with Bartholomew I, a Muslim representative, Archbishop Justin Welby, Patriarch Efrem II and a Jewish representative.
From 4pm local time Prayers for Peace take place in different venues. The Ecumenical Prayer of Christians takes place in the Lower Basilica of St. Francis, after which all the participants are meeting with the Representatives of other religions who have prayed in different places before moving to the podium in the Square.
A closing ceremony takes place at 5.15pm in St. Francis Square with messages read by Pope Francis, by a victim of war, Patriarch Bartholomew I, a Muslim representative, a Jewish representative, Japanese Buddhist Patriarch and by Professor Andrea Riccardi, Founder of the Sant’Egidio Community.
A Letter appealing for peace is handed to children from various countries and all present observe a moment of silence for the victims of war. Then the signing of an Appeal for Peace,the lighting of two symbolic candles and the exchange of a sign of peace conclude the World Day of Prayer for Peace.
Pope Francis is scheduled to depart from Assisi at 6.30pm and arrive back at the Vatican City Heliport 1 hour later.
Watch a video of Pope Francis' visit to Assisi: