Sunday, 18 November 2001
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. The international scene continues to be disturbed by worrisome
tensions. We cannot forget the intense sufferings that have afflicted
and still afflict so many of our brothers and sisters in the world:
thousands of innocent victims in the deadly attacks of 11 September;
countless people forced to abandon their homes to face the unknown and
sometimes a cruel death; women, the elderly and children exposed to
the risk of dying of cold and hunger.
In a situation made dramatic by the ever present threat of terrorism,
we feel the need to cry out to God. The more insurmountable the
difficulties and obscure the prospects, the more insistent must our
prayer be, to beg of God the gift of mutual understanding, harmony and
2. We know that prayer acquires power if it is joined with fasting
and almsgiving. The Old Testament taught this, and from the earliest
centuries Christians have accepted and applied this lesson, especially
at the times of Advent and Lent. For their part, the Muslim faithful
have just begun Ramadan, a month dedicated to fasting and prayer.
Soon, we Christians will begin Advent, to prepare ourselves in prayer,
for the celebration of Christmas, the day of the birth of "the Prince
At this appropriate time, I ask Catholics to make next 14 December a
day of fasting, to pray fervently to God to grant to the world stable
peace based on justice, and make it possible to find adequate
solutions to the many conflicts that trouble the world. May what is
saved by fasting be put at the disposal of the poor, especially those
who at present suffer the consequences of terrorism and war.
I would also like to announce that it is my intention to invite the
representatives of the world religions to come to Assisi on 24 January
2002, to pray for the overcoming of opposition and the promotion of
authentic peace. In particular, we wish to bring Christians and
Muslims together to proclaim to the world that religion must never be
a reason for conflict, hatred and violence. In this historic moment,
humanity needs to see gestures of peace and to hear words of hope.
As I said 15 years ago, when announcing the meeting of prayer for
peace, which was held in Assisi the following October: "It is urgent
that a common invocation rise to heaven from earth, to beg from
Almighty God, in whose hands is the destiny of the world, the great
gift of peace, the necessary condition for every serious endeavour at
the service of humanity's real progress".
3. From this moment I entrust these initiatives to the maternal
intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, asking her to sustain our
efforts and those of humanity in order to achieve peace.
We ask you, Queen of Peace, to help us respond with the power of
truth and love to the new and unsettling challenges of the present
moment. Help us also to pass through this difficult period, that
disturbs the serenity of so many people, and to work without delay to
build every day and everywhere a genuine culture of peace.
Tracy S. Tiemeier
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467