The Catholic University of America

April 26, 2006

International Prayer for Peace Gathering at Catholic University

From left: Father David O'Connell, president of Catholic University; Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington; Andrea Riccardi, founder of Sant'Egidio; and John DeGioia, president of Georgetown University.

One of the most significant annual interfaith gatherings in the world began today with a luncheon at Catholic University.

The 2006 International Prayer for Peace: "Religions and Cultures: the Courage of Dialogue," sponsored by The Catholic University of America, the Community of Sant'Egidio, the Archdiocese of Washington and Georgetown University, is being held in Washington, D.C., on April 26-27, 2006.

This gathering will be attended by scores of religious and civic leaders from the United States, Europe, Asia and Africa. It marks the 20th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's historic interfaith gathering for peace in Assisi. The Washington meeting also is the first time that this annual event will take place in the United States.

Approximately 100 guests, representing Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox/Oriental Christian, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Eastern faith groups, participated in a 1 p.m. luncheon hosted by Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., president of Catholic University.

In his welcoming remarks to those assembled, Father O'Connell reflected that religion has always played a significant role in the development of world cultures. "Because there are many cultures that share this earth, dialogue - true and sincere dialogue - does, indeed, require courage and charity." Quoting from St. Vincent de Paul, Father O'Connell observed, "Charity is certainly greater than any rule. But all rules must lead to charity." [For the CUA president's complete remarks, see below.]

Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen, Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Israel (at right), chats with Professor Riccardi before CUA luncheon.
After the luncheon, the gathering will move to Georgetown University for its opening session this afternoon and panel discussions tomorrow. For more information visit

The Community of Sant'Egidio, founded in 1968, is an organization representing more than 50,000 Catholic lay people throughout the world who are dedicated to living the Gospel and promoting interreligious dialogue, peace, justice and service. Based in Rome, Sant'Egidio has members in more than 70 countries. This will be the organization's first major event in the United States.

Welcoming Remarks by Father O'Connell at Opening Luncheon

Your eminences, your excellencies, President DiGioia, members of the hierarchy and clergy of all faiths represented here, members of the Community of San Egidio, dear friends all. Good afternoon and welcome to The Catholic University of America! It is my privilege as president to greet you in the name of the entire university community as you join us on campus today.

St. Vincent de Paul, the founder of the Vincentian Community to which I belong and the inspiration for many others within the Vincentian family, once wrote:

Always do what you can so that, prayer being your first occupation, your mind may be filled with God for the rest of the day. It is true that, in case of necessity, you prefer the service of the poor to making your prayer but, if you take care, you will find plenty of time for both.

In these days here in Washington, all of us are, indeed, making time "for both." St. Vincent had a great deal of wisdom. I am delighted that The Catholic University of America could play some small role, along with Georgetown University, the Archdiocese of Washington and the Community of San Egidio, in this wonderful and historic gathering, the first such occasion here in the United States and the largest annual interfaith gathering of its kind. There is a special dimension to our being together this year as we also commemorate the 20th anniversary of the first gathering in Assisi with Pope John Paul II. From his home in heaven may this saintly man pray for us and for God's blessings on our assembly.

This year, the International Prayer for Peace has taken as its theme, "Religions and Cultures: the Courage of Dialogue." It has become ever more apparent to all of us that religion has always and continues to play a critical role in the shaping of cultures. Because there are many religions and many cultures that share our earth, dialogue - true and sincere dialogue - does, indeed, require courage and charity. Peace, true and lasting peace, also requires dialogue and courage and charity.

I am grateful to all who have made these days possible, especially today's luncheon. We join together in prayer, in peace, with courage and in charity, mindful again of some other advice from St. Vincent de Paul:

It is our duty to prefer the service of the poor to everything else and to offer such service as quickly as possible … do whatever has to be done with peace of mind. Offer your deeds to God as your prayer.... Charity is certainly greater than any rule. But all rules must lead to charity.

Thank you for being here with us today. Bless us, O Lord, and the gifts we are about to receive from thy bounty, forever and ever. Amen.

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Media contact(s):
· Chris Harrison, CUA Office of Public Affairs, 202-319-5600,
· Katie Lee, CUA Office of Public Affairs, 202-319-5600,