Why Assisi 2011 was a scandal

Was the Assisi 2011 interreligious meeting simply a friendly encounter among men and women of good will, or a casual discourse on the divinity of Christ and His Church?

On October 27, 2011, Pope Benedict held the third inter-religious prayer meeting at Assisi, Italy, renewing the unprecedented scandal first perpetrated by Pope John Paul II on October 27, 1986.

Assisi 2011: Why is it a scandal?

With the approval of the SSPX's Superior General, Bishop Bernard Fellay, Fr. Regis de Cacqueray, District Superior of France published this text on September 12 (2011).

Errare humanum est, perseverare diabolicum! (to err is human, but to persevere is diabolic!)

What will occur this October 27, 2011? A call for conversion to the Catholic Faith? The pope’s declarations clearly indicate what this day will be: the meeting of representatives of all the false religions, called by the pope personally to join in a day of reflection where all are invited to pray for peace.[1]

Certainly, unlike the first Assisi meeting, the prayer is to be silent, though intense. But to what god will these representatives of all the false religions be praying in silence? To what god will they be praying, if not their false gods, since the pope has invited them explicitly to live more deeply “their own religious faith”?[2] To whom will the Muslims be turning, if not the god of Mohammed? To whom will the animists address themselves, if not their idols? How is it conceivable that a pope should call upon the representatives of false religions in their official capacity to participate in a day of personal prayer? This act of the sovereign pontiff constitutes ipso facto a dreadful blasphemy toward God as well as an occasion of scandal for all on earth.

An offense against God Triune and Incarnate

How else should we characterize this religious fair, which gravely offends against the First Commandment: “The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.”[3] How can anyone entertain the thought that God will be pleased with the Jews who are faithful to their fathers, who crucified the Son of God and deny the Triune God? How could He give ear to prayers addressed to Allah, whose disciples relentlessly persecute Christians? How could He accept the suffrages of all the heretics, schismatics, and apostates who have repudiated His Church, which came from His Son’s open side? How could He be honored by the worship offered to idols by all the animists, pantheists, and other idolaters? How could He hear these prayers when His Son has clearly told us the contrary: “No man comes to the Father but by me”?[4]

That souls in good faith pray to God while still heretics or unbelievers is one thing; God will recognize His own and will guide them to the one true Church. But to invite these men to pray as representatives of the false religions, according to “their own religious faith,” surely signals that they are being invited to pray according to the spirit and in the manner of their false religions.

How can we fail to see in this a supreme insult to God thrice holy? How can we fail to be profoundly indignant at the sight of such a scandal? How can silence be anything but complicity?

The peace of Christ denatured

This exceedingly grave sin equally offends the peace of Jesus Christ. The pope is calling for prayer for peace. But what is the nature of the peace the pope seeks? Is it the cessation of the conflicts that bloody the world? But are we really to believe that prayer to false gods will merit for us, not chastisement, but the blessing of peace among men? Has the primeval Flood been forgotten? Has remembrance been lost of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, whose crime was less grave than that of incredulity?[5] Has the record of the gory destruction of Jerusalem, the wages of the sins of His people, been stricken from the Gospels and from history?

Moreover, of what use would it be to us to purchase temporal peace were we to lose our soul? “Be not afraid of them who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do….Fear ye him who, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell”.[6] In another connection, how can we fail to see in this prayer for peace a doubtlessly unconscious yet perfidious diversion, for ecumenical ends, of the legitimate aspiration of humanity for civil peace? No, the peace brought by Christ cannot be a worldly peace, the Masonic peace sealed with freedom of conscience.

For in reality the peace for which the current pontiff prays is not merely temporal peace; it is especially religious freedom,[7] the liberty of conscience so often condemned by the popes.[8] This is the prayer intention given by the pope; this is the peace the pope prays for: temporal peace obtained by freedom of conscience.

Is this the peace of Jesus Christ? of the One who died on the cross to affirm His divinity? The peace of Christ is quite different, as far removed from this Masonic idea of peace as charity is from fraternity. The peace of Christ is peace with God, fruit of the redemption of souls by the Blood of His Son and men’s rejection of sin. As for the civil peace communicated by Christ, it is nothing else than the fruit of Christian civilization, molded by Catholic faith and charity.

An odious humiliation of the Church

But if the Triune God and the Sacred Humanity of Christ are gravely offended by this invitation to sin, the immaculate Spouse of Christ, His one Catholic Church, is humiliated publicly. Mocked is the teaching of the Apostles, popes, Fathers of the Church, the saints, the martyrs, and Catholic princes and heroes. Mocked is the teaching of the Psalmist according to whom “all the gods of the gentiles are devils”;[9] mocked, the formal order of St. John not to greet heretics;[10] mocked, the teaching of a Gregory XVI or a Pius IX,[11] for whom freedom of conscience is a “delirium”; mocked, the formal prohibition by Popes Leo XIII[12] and Pius XI[13] to organize or participate in interreligious congresses; mocked, the martyrdom of a Polyeuctus refusing to sacrifice to idols; mocked, the example of a St. Francis de Sales, writing his Controversies to convert Protestant heretics; mocked, the thousands of missionaries who gave up everything for the salvation of the souls of infidels; mocked, the heroic deed of a Charles Martel, halting Islam at Poitiers, or of a Godefroy de Bouillon, forcing his way by lance and sword into Jerusalem; mocked, a St. Louis of France, who punished blasphemy.

How can a Catholic imbued with the spirit of Assisi still subscribe to the dogma “Outside the Church no salvation”? How can he see in the Catholic Church the one ark of salvation? What’s more, this scandal comes from the highest sacred authority on earth, from the Vicar of Jesus Christ himself, as if the gravity of such a gathering were not enough. Does this not make of the pope, presiding over this meeting, not the head of the Catholic Church but the head of a “Church” of the United Nations, the primus inter pares [the first among equals—Ed.] of a religion of all the religions, essentially identical with the Masonic cult of the Great Architect of the Universe? Is this not a satanic perversion of the mission of Peter? Whereas Christ solemnly commanded Peter to “confirm his brethren in the faith” and to feed His sheep, the successor of Peter is in fact going to confirm his brethren in indifferentism and relativism.

An Immense Scandal

For, beyond the terrible blasphemy, this personal decision of the pope will engender an immense scandal in the souls of both Catholics and non-Catholics. Before the image of a pope uniting the representatives of all the false religions, the reaction of the majority of men will be to relativize truth and religion still more. What individual, little acquainted with the Catholic religion, will not be tempted to be reassured about the fate of non-Catholics when he sees the pope inviting them to pray for freedom of conscience? What non-Christian will see in the Catholic religion the one true religion to the exclusion of all others when he learns that the head of the Catholic Church has convoked a pantheon of religions? How will he interpret the pope’s exhortation not to yield to relativism if not by thinking that it is a matter, not of holding to the truth, but of being sincere?

How could he not interpret in a relativist sense[14] the pope’s explicit invitation to practice one’s own religion as well as possible:

I shall go as a pilgrim to the town of St. Francis, inviting my Christian brethren of various denominations, the exponents of the world’s religious traditions to join this pilgrimage and ideally all men and women of good will… [in order] to solemnly renew the commitment of believers of every religion to live their own religious faith as a service to the cause of peace."[15]

In 1986, a journalist published this telling conclusion:

The pope is inventing and presiding over a United Nations of Religions: those who believe in the Eternal, those who believe in a thousand gods, those who believe in no particular god. An amazing sight! John Paul II spectacularly admits the relativity of the Christian faith, which is now but one among the others."[16]

How can it be imagined that this judgment is not shared by many on the eve of October 27, 2011?

That is why it seems to us singularly strange to excuse the pope from such a sin on the grounds that Assisi 2011 is different from Assisi 1986. To the contrary, everything concurs to convince us of the surprising continuity between the Assisi meeting in 1986 and that of 2011:

The nature of the gathering: an invitation to the representatives of the false religions to get together to reflect and to pray for peace."

The motive: the civic peace promoted by the United Nations. In 1986, John Paul II invited all the religions “in this year 1986, designated by the U.N. as the Year of Peace, to promote a special gathering to pray for peace in the city of Assisi.”[17] During his message for peace of January 1, 2011, the date on which he announced the gathering at Assisi on October 27, 2011, Benedict XVI signed these revealing lines:

Without this fundamental experience [of the great religions] it becomes difficult to guide societies towards universal ethical principles and to establish at the national and international level a legal order which fully recognizes and respects fundamental rights and freedoms as these are set forth in the goals—sadly still disregarded or contradicted—of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights… All this is necessary and consistent with the respect for the dignity and worth of the human person enshrined by the world’s peoples in the 1945 Charter of the United Nations…"[18]

As Bishop Fellay wrote to John Paul II on the occasion of the second scandal of Assisi in 1999:

The humanist, earthly and naturalist themes taken up at these meetings cause the Church to fall from its entirely divine, eternal and supernatural mission to the level of the Freemasonic ideals of world peace outside of the only Prince of Peace, Our Lord Jesus Christ."[19]

The date: Benedict XVI chose to undertake this initiative twenty-five years to the day after the Assisi fest:

The year 2011 marks the 25th anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Peace convened in Assisi in 1986 by Pope John Paul II… The memory of that experience gives reason to hope for a future in which all believers will see themselves, and will actually be, agents of justice and peace."[20]

Is this not a clear sign of evident continuity? Is it not a way to make us relive the painful memory of the scandals of a Buddha on the tabernacle in St. Peter’s Church, the chickens sacrificed to the gods on St. Clare’s altar, the Vicar of Christ flanked by the Dalai Lama and an Orthodox Patriarch under the heel of the KGB? Is it necessary to commemorate the anniversary of an event if the goal is to distance oneself from it? Why proclaim Ubi et Orbi that “the memory of that experience gives reason to hope”? Only the betrayal of straight thinking can have given rise to such a flight from reality.[21]

The recollection of his predecessor, as if he wanted to dissipate any misunderstanding and to remind one and all of his fidelity to the spirit of the first Assisi meeting: “This year, 2011, is the 25th anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Peace which Venerable John Paul II convoked in Assisi in 1986.”[22]

It is not only the stalwart defenders of the pope who use these same arguments to attempt to justify the unjustifiable. Formerly Assisi was defended by making a subtle distinction between “being together to pray” and “praying together.” Will they now be saying that there will be no common prayer, but rather a day of prayer in common? Instead of denying the concomittance of the silent prayers, shall we say that everybody prays separately according to his own religion? As if these specious distinctions were not manufactured for the needs of the cause. As if these subtleties were immediately grasped by the majority of men, who will retain only one thing: a gathering of all the religions for everyone to pray to the divinity, abstracting from any Revelation.

Finally, and like most of the gestures of the current pope compared to his predecessor’s, the scandal of Assisi 2011 will be substantially the same but less spectacular than Assisi 1986. That is why, to those who would accuse us once again of lacking in charity because of the vehemence of these lines, we remind them of Christ’s words: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and thy whole soul, and all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thyself.” Do we show an ardent love of Christ when we fail to decry blasphemy or criticize those who are shocked by it? Do we love our neighbor when we fail to warn him of the looming scandal? Is this the love Christ requires of us? No, as St. Pius X recalled at a dark hour:

But Catholic doctrine tells us that the primary duty of charity does not lie in the toleration of false ideas, however sincere they may be, nor in the theoretical or practical indifference towards the errors and vices in which we see our brethren plunged, but in the zeal for their intellectual and moral improvement as well as for their material well-being. Catholic doctrine further tells us that love for our neighbor flows from our love for God, Who is Father to all, and goal of the whole human family; and in Jesus Christ whose members we are, to the point that in doing good to others we are doing good to Jesus Christ Himself. Any other kind of love is sheer illusion, sterile and fleeting."[23]

So, then, what Church do we belong to? To the Church of St. Polycarp of Smyrna, who retorted to the heretic Marcion, who had asked him if he recognized him, “Yes, I recognize you as the devil’s elder son”?

  • Do we belong to the Church of St. Martin, who broke the idols and felled the sacred trees of our countryside?
  • Do we belong to the Church of St Bernard, who preached the crusade to our forefathers?
  • Do we belong to the Church of St. Pius V, who not only prayed the Rosary, but summoned the Christian princes to make war against the Mohammedans?
  • Do we belong to the Church of the saints and martyrs, or to the Church of the Pilates, the Cauchons, the Lamennaises, the Teilhard de Chardins, ever ready to toady to the world and to deliver Christ and His disciples to their detractors?
  • Will we judge Assisi with the eyes of faith, of the popes and martyrs, or with the eyes of worldlings, liberals, and modernists?

That is why we cannot keep silent, and while the pope prepares for one of the most serious acts of his pontificate, we vigorously and publicly proclaim our indignation, hoping and beseeching Heaven that this well-prepared calamity may not take place. Lastly, how can we fail to think of these words of Archbishop. Lefebvre recalled by Bishop Fellay in 1999 in his letter to the pope:

Archbishop Lefebvre saw in this disastrous event of Assisi one of the 'signs of the times' which permitted him to proceed legitimately with episcopal consecrations without Your consent and to write to You that 'the time for an open collaboration has not yet come.'[24] The time has come, however, to make reparation for this scandal, to do penance while keeping in our heart the firm hope that despite the progress of the Mystery of Iniquity, 'the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.'"

September 12, 2011, Feast of the Holy Name of Mary, anniversary of the victory of the Catholic armies over the Turks at Vienna, September 12, 1683.

Published with the permission of Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X.


 1 The agenda for the day and the Holy See’s communique leave no doubt about the religious dimension of the event:

…On the day of the anniversary, October 27 this year, the Holy Father intends to hold a Day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world….There will follow a period of silence for individual reflection and prayer. In the afternoon, all who are present in Assisi will make their way towards the Basilica of St. Francis. It will be a pilgrimage in which, for the final stretch, the members of the delegations will also take part; it is intended to symbolize the journey of every human being who assiduously seeks the truth and actively builds justice and peace. It will take place in silence, leaving room for personal meditation and prayer..." (Vatican Press Office, Communique of April 2, 2011, 'Pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace': Day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world." [Assisi, October 17, 2011])

2 The purpose announced by the pope is “to solemnly renew the commitment of believers of every religion to live their own religious faith as a service to the cause of peace.” Benedict XVI, Angelus, St. Peter’s Square, January 1, 2011.

3 Deut. 6:13; Matt. 4:10.

4 John 14:16. Cf. also I Jn. 2:23: “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father.”


And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words: going forth out of that house or city shake off the dust from your feet. Amen I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.” (Matt. 10:14-15)

6 Luke 12, 4-5.


…the World Day of Peace is a favorable opportunity to reflect together on the great challenges our epoch confronts humanity with. One such is religious freedom, dramatically urgent in our day. For this reason, this year I have chosen to dedicate my Message to the theme: 'Religious freedom, the path to peace'... [I]n my Message for today’s World Day of Peace I have had the opportunity to emphasize that the great religions can constitute an important factor of unity and peace for the human family. In this regard, moreover, I recalled that this year, 2011, is the 25th anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Peace which Venerable John Paul II convoked in Assisi in 1986. Therefore next October I shall go as a pilgrim to the town of St. Francis, inviting my Christian brethren of various denominations, the exponents of the world’s religious traditions to join this pilgrimage…". (Benedict XVI, Angelus, January 1, 2011)


From this poisoned source of indifferentism flows that false and absurd, or rather extravagant, maxim that liberty of conscience should be established and guaranteed to each man….”. Gregory XVI, Mirari Vos, 1832

9 Ps 95, 5.


If any man come to you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the house nor say to him: God speed you. For he that saith unto him: God speed you, communicateth with his wicked works.” (II John 10-11)

11 Cf. the Syllabus of Errors, 1864, condemned proposition No. 79:

For it is false that the civil liberty of every cult, and likewise, the full power granted to all of manifesting openly and publicly any kind of opinions and ideas, more easily leads to the corruption of the morals and minds of the people, and to the spread of the evil of indifferentism.”

12 On the occasion of the World’s Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893.


For since they hold it for certain that men destitute of all religious sense are very rarely to be found, they seem to have founded on that belief a hope that the nations, although they differ among themselves in certain religious matters, will without much difficulty come to agree as brethren in professing certain doctrines, which form as it were a common basis of the spiritual life. For which reason conventions, meetings and addresses are frequently arranged by these persons, at which a large number of listeners are present, and at which all without distinction are invited to join in the discussion, both infidels of every kind, and Christians, even those who have unhappily fallen away from Christ or who with obstinacy and pertinacity deny His divine nature and mission. Certainly such attempts can nowise be approved by Catholics, founded as they are on that false opinion which considers all religions to be more or less good and praiseworthy, since they all in different ways manifest and signify that sense which is inborn in us all, and by which we are led to God and to the obedient acknowledgment of His rule. Not only are those who hold this opinion in error and deceived, but also in distorting the idea of true religion they reject it, and little by little. turn aside to naturalism and atheism, as it is called; from which it clearly follows that one who supports those who hold these theories and attempt to realize them, is altogether abandoning the divinely revealed religion." (Pius XI, Mortalium Animos, January 6, 1928)

14 This can be done “without losing its own identity or assigned to forms of syncretism”, Press Release of the Holy See of April 2, 2011: A day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world—“pilgrims of the truth, pilgrims of peace” (Assisi, October 27, 2011).

15 Benedict XVI, Angelus, St. Peter’s Square, January 1, 2011.

16 Le Figaro magazine, October 31, 1986, p. 69.

17 L’Osservatore Romano, January 27-28, 1986.

18 Message of His Holiness Benedict XVI for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, January 1, 2011, Nos. 7, 12.

19 Open Letter of Bishop Bernard Fellay to Pope John Paul II solemnly protesting the renewed scandal of Assisi at Rome on October 28, 1999.

20 Message of His Holiness Benedict XVI for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, January 1, 2011, Nos. 11.

21 [Seule la trahison des bien-pensants peut permettre de se voiler ainsi la face.] Cf. Bernanos, Journal d’un cure de campagne (Plon, 1936), p. 245.

22 Benedict XVI, Angelus, St. Peter’s Square, January 1, 2011. See also the Vatican’s press release of April 2, 2011:

'Pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace': Day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world, Assisi, October 27, 2011: The image of pilgrimage therefore sums up the meaning of the event. There will be an opportunity to look back over the path already traveled from that first meeting in Assisi to the following one in January 2002, and also to look ahead to the future, with a view to continuing, in company with all men and women of good will, to walk along the path of dialogue and fraternity, in the context of a world in rapid transformation."

Already in 2007, on the occasion of the interreligious reunion at Naples, Benedict XVI dispelled any thought of a desire to repent of the first convocation at Assisi:

Today's meeting takes us back in spirit to 1986, when my venerable Predecessor John Paul II invited important Religious Representatives to the hills of St. Francis to pray for peace, stressing on that occasion the intrinsic ties that combine an authentic religious attitude with keen sensitivity to this fundamental good of humanity.…While respecting the differences of the various religions, we are all called to work for peace…" (Meeting with the Heads of the Delegations Participating in the International Encounter for Peace, October 21, 2007)

23 St. Pius X, Encyclical Our Apostolic Mandate to the French Episcopacy, August 25, 1910 [English tr. Yves Dupont (1974; Instauratio Press, 1990), §24].

24 Letter of Bishop Fellay to John Paul II to solemnly protest against the renewal of the scandal of Assisi at Rome on October 28, 1999.