SAN ANTONIO • St. Mary’s University’s 11th Annual Catholic Intellectual Tradition Series extravaganza, “The International Prayer for Peace — The courage of Hope,” held Oct. 1 was the result of almost a year of planning by St. Mary’s, the Archdiocese of San Antonio and the Roman Community of Sant’Egidio.
The Community of Sant’Egidio began in Rome in 1968, in the period following the Second Vatican Council. Today it is a movement of lay people and has more than 70,000 members, dedicated to evangelization and charity, in Rome, Italy and in more than 73 countries throughout the world.
The prayerful event took place at the Bill Greehey Alumni and Convocation Center in a spirit of interreligious dialogue and ecumenism, which is the hallmark of the Year of Faith and the CIT Lecture Series.
The International Prayer for Peace in Rome involves thousands of religious leaders, civic leaders and women and men of faith meeting, conversing and celebrating their commitment to the common work and goal of peace. The St. Mary’s University event represented the North American initiative connected with the global gathering in Rome, in collaboration with brothers and sisters of faith in Italy.
The more than 800 attendees heard from three faith leaders as they reflected on important issues of faith, freedom and peace. After those presentations, listeners were to participate in the conversation on the important issues of religion and peace in one-hour sessions.
As a finale to the day’s activities, attendees participated together in a closing vigil at the university bell tower, where the choir performed and the Proclamation for Peace, which was written by religious leaders in Rome, was read by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, and signed by the religious leaders in attendance.
St. Mary’s University President Thomas Mengler, JD, welcomed attendees to the International Prayer for Peace and began by saying he was glad they were a part of the event.
“In attendance today are people of faith and religious leaders from our San Antonio community. We come from a variety of religious backgrounds,” he said. “Many churches, temples, synagogues and mosques are represented here. And we have come together because we are committed to the important work for dialogue and peace.”
In his remarks, Archbishop Gustavo praised the work that the Community of Sant’Egidio has been doing for over four decades. “They are truly dedicated to the work of peace and the pursuit of meaningful dialogue with all people of different faiths and backgrounds. That works in being expressed in Rome, in San Antonio and in more than 73 countries throughout the world by men and women of different faith backgrounds.”
He continued, “This afternoon symbolizes our neighborhood’s commitment to this courageous endeavor to encourage dialogue and peace among the world’s religious voices and traditions.”
Paola Piscitelli, president of the Community of Sant’Egidio in the United States, said the International Prayer for Peace began in 1986 at the invitation of Pope Paul II. “From this moment on leaders of different religions and Christian denominations have united themselves in prayer and dialogue to make this world a better place, a place of mutual understanding and respect,” she said.
Piscitelli noted that the Alamo City gathering marked the 27th anniversary of the first meeting, and the third time this celebration has been held in the United States.
• Andrea Bartoli, Ph.D., dean of the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University and representative of the Community of Sant’Egidio in the United States.
• Elisa Koppel, associate rabbi of Temple Beth-El, San Antonio
• Imam Sohaib Sultan, Muslim Life coordinator and chaplain at Princeton University.
Three breakout sessions were then offered to discuss the presentation topics. They were moderated by Aaron Tyler, Ph.D., and Larry Hufford, Ph.D., from St. Mary’s University, as well as Claudio Mario Betti from Sant’Egidio.
After a brief dinner, which featured a video airing of the Rome counterpart event, a procession was held from the arena to the Barrett Memorial Bell Tower for the closing vigil, signing of the Peace Proclamation, and lighting of candles.