Religious leaders meet for peace

Pilgrims gather in Assisi, Italy for a meeting of world religious leaders called by Pope Benedict XVI to promote peace and freedom of religion.

Religious leaders 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Religious leaders 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)

World religious leaders gather in Assisi, Italy for a summit to promote peace.

The initiative was called by Catholic Pope Benedict XVI, on the 25th anniversary of a similar event hosted by his predecessor John Paul II.

Pilgrims gathered outside the Saint Mary of the Angels Basilica, where the meeting took place.

Many had traveled long distances to take part, such as one group Romania.

"We are so happy to be here. Yesterday was a great moment when after a day of hard rain we arrive here, and we were so happy realizing that we've done 140 kilometers, we are here for the meeting with the Pope," said Maria, and Orthodox faithful from Romania.

The summit comes following concerns over rising inter-religious violence.

In January Benedict expressed concern for the persecution of Christians around the world.

Earlier this month, at least 25 people were killed in Cairo when a protest by Coptic Christians was violently suppressed by the army.

In November last year, more than 50 hostages and police officers were killed when al-Qaida gunmen stormed a Baghdad church.

The Vatican fears that continuing attacks are fueling a Christian exodus from the Middle East.