Some 200 representatives of the world's religions will meet later this month in the southern Italian city of Naples to discuss a range of issues focusing on violence in the world. The meeting is being organized by the Catholic Community of Sant'Egidio and the Archdiocese of Naples. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.
Among those taking part in the gathering are Pope Benedict and the heads of state of the African nations of Tanzania and Malawi.
The religious leaders are expected to discuss such issues as AIDS, immigration, conflict resolution in the Middle East and the plight of Africa.
Africa has been hit particularly hard by problems related to violence, poverty and disease.
Mario Marazziti is a spokesman for the Catholic Community of Sant'Egidio with the Archdiocese of Naples. The community organized the two-day event. He says there is concern among members of the group that the international community may give up on Africa.
"We are really worried about Afro-pessimism and the fact that many countries are abandoning Africa thinking that Africa is too complicated," said Marazziti. "So the presence of the presidents of Tanzania and Malawi for us means from Africa a real contribution to how a common future must be built."
Organizers were inspired by the World Day of Prayer for Peace convened by Pope John Paul II in Assisi in October 1986. They say they are concerned about the level of violence in everyday life, and that some conflicts find their roots in religious differences.
Catholic Community spokesman Marazziti says participants will discuss how religions can help resolve the world's conflicts instead of fueling them.
Pope Benedict will conduct mass in Naples on October 21, to coincide with the start of the two-day gathering.
He plans to meet with other representatives of the world's religions. Among them: Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople; the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams; Israel's chief rabbi, Yona Metzger; and the rector of the Al-Azhar University in Egypt, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb.