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By The Associated Press Thu Mar 6, 12:15 PM ET
WASHINGTON – Representatives of five non-Christian faiths will meet with Pope Benedict XVI during his first U.S. visit as pontiff next month.
The 45-minute event on April 17 at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington will include a papal address, greetings from the faith leaders and a presentation of gifts symbolic of each tradition by young members of the respective communities.
There will be no formal dialogue among participants because of time constraints on the pope’s schedule, said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Benedict’s April 15-20 visit to New York and Washington includes an address to the United Nations, a visit to ground zero, two outdoor masses at baseball stadiums and a meeting with President Bush.
The interfaith gathering includes 200 invited guests, and Benedict is scheduled to meet personally with three Jewish leaders, three Muslim leaders, two Buddhist leaders, a Hindu leader and Jain leader.
That group includes Rabbi Gilbert S. Rosenthal of the National Council of Synagogues; Rabbi Joel Myers of the New York-based Rabbinical Assembly; Sayyid M. Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America and Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America, a large mosque in Dearborn, Mich.
Bishop Richard Sklba, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, said the theme of the meeting is “Religions Working for Peace.”
“The cry for peace in our world calls for religious bodies to come together,” Sklba, auxiliary bishop of Milwaukee, said in a statement. “This meeting denotes the Holy Father’s belief in the need for religious bodies to stress the goal for peace which lies at the heart of all religions.”
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