– Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
(Vatican News) Eighteen years to the day that the twin towers were attacked in New York City, the 7 member Higher Committee established for the purpose of achieving the goals of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together met together for the first time on Monday. Pope Francis received them at Casa Santa Marta at 8:30 on Monday morning.
The Holy See Press Office released a statement regarding the meeting, saying that 11 September was chosen “as a sign of the will to build life and fraternity where others sowed death and destruction.” Pope Francis greeted each Committee member and those heading the Committee’s Secretariat, giving each of them a copy of the Document. His words expressed both gratitude and encouragement for these “artisans of fraternity.” He hopes that they might be fundamental in initiating policies that not only represent “outstretched hands” but also “open hearts.”
Representing the Holy See on this Committee are Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, MCCJ, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and Msgr. Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, the Pope’s personal secretary. Representing the University of Al-Azhar are its President, Prof. Dr Mohamed Husin Abdelaziz Hassan, and Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam, Judge and former Advisor to Grand Imam Al-Tayyib. Representing the United Arab Emirates are His Excellency Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Culture and Tourism; Yasser Saeed Abdulla Hareb Almuhairi, writer and journalist; and Sultan Faisal Al Khalifa Alremeithi, Secretary General of the Muslim Elders.
After a visit with the Substitute of the Secretary of State, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, the Committee began its work at Casa Santa Marta. Work began by appointing the President of the Committee, Bishop Ayuso, the Secretary, Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam, and the members of the Executive Office: Msgr. Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, Yasser Saeed Abdulla Hareb Almuhairi and Sultan Faisal Al Khalifa Alremeithi. They then proceeded to formulate the Statutes which will govern the Committee’s activity.
The Committee also identified several concrete initiatives to initiate its activity: a proposal directed to the United Nations that a date between 3 and 5 February be proclaimed Day of Human Fraternity, and another proposal to invite representatives of other world religions to participate on the Committee.
The Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together was signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar during a Global Conference on Human Fraternity in Abu Dhabi on 4 February 2019. A Committee was formed on 19 August by the United Arab Emirates to implement the Document. At that time, Pope Francis was “pleased to learn of the initiative” calling it part of the “hidden sea of goodness that is growing” making it possible to create a “world of fraternity and peace”.