Decrying a clash of civilisations, rival religious leaders will pray together in the hometown of "God's buffoon".
The pope will pray with sheiks and Sikhs, patriarchs, rabbis, and even some Zoroastrians
World religions will pray in a single voice for peace Thursday, in a rare show of unity between faiths, brought together in opposition to war.
Some 175 leaders will participate, representing such diverse faiths as Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christianity, Judaism and Islam, Bhuddhism, Hinduism and African tribal religions less known to Europeans.
They will come on Pope John Paul II's invitation to the Italian town of Assisi, birthplace of St. Francis, a saint much of Christendom closely associates with peace.
The common prayer to be said by the leaders is a straightforward pledge against violence: "Violence never again! War never again! Terrorism never again! In God's name, may all religions bring upon earth justice and peace, forgiveness, life and love!"
It may seem an unlikely request in a world scarred by war, some of which are called "holy" by those who wage them.
But if the leaders receive some mockery, they have picked an appropriate place for snickers.
According to legend, St. Francis, born the son of a wealthy merchant in 1182, was scorned as "God's buffoon" for giving away his possessions and proclaiming love and peace before the town's nobility in Assisi's town square.
A statement from the Vatican called the planned day of prayer a "cry for peace in the hearts of believers" and warned against the "clash of civilizations" some observers predicted after the terrorist attacks of September 11. The pope's master of liturgical celebrations, Piero Marini, warned that terrorist acts and the U.S.-led war on terror should not be "seen as a conflict between economic and social systems or, worse still, as a clash between the Muslim world and other religions, especially Christianity."