The Vatican has issued an invitation to non-believers to attend the Day of Reflection, Dialogue, and Prayer to be held at Assisi on the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s historic meeting with leaders of world religions in 1986. The purpose of this invitation to non-believers is not to seek their conversion but to involve all people of good will in the shared witness to peace and fraternity.
‘The Day will take as its theme: ‘Pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace’. Every human being is ultimately a pilgrim in search of truth and goodness. Believers too are constantly journeying towards God: hence the possibility, indeed the necessity, of speaking and entering into dialogue with everyone, believers and unbelievers alike, without sacrificing one’s own identity or indulging in forms of syncretism. To the extent that the pilgrimage of truth is authentically lived, it opens the path to dialogue with the other, it excludes no-one and it commits everyone to be a builder of fraternity and peace. These are the elements that the Holy Father wishes to place at the centre of reflection.’
“For this reason, as well as representatives of Christian communities and of the principal religious traditions, some figures from the world of culture and science will be invited to share the journey – people who, while not professing to be religious, regard themselves as seekers of the truth and are conscious of a shared responsibility for the cause of justice and peace in this world of ours”.
Protect the Pope comment: The Vatican’s invitation to non-believers to attend the Assisi meeting, coupled with the Court of the Gentile’s initiative shows Pope Benedict’s commitment to dialogue and engagement with atheists and humanists. As the communique from the Vatican puts it for this dialogue to be genuine two things are required: neither side must feel pressured to sacrifice their identity and both sides must recognize the other as ‘seekers for the truth’.
In the light of this it is unlikely that the present exponents of New Atheism will become partners in this dialogue because of their avowed goal of destroying religion and their dismissive attacks on believers as knaves and fools. Having said this, who knows how New Atheism will develop in the future? Hopefully it will be able to get out of the shadow of Richard Dawkins.