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Muslims and Jews taking up Pope's invitation to Assisi

Muslim and Jewish communities responded enthusiastically to John Paul II's invitation to world religious leaders to attend a prayer meeting for peace in Assisi on 24 January.

Mario Scialoja, the World Muslim League's representative in Italy, reacted to the papal invitation, describing it as "magnificent", the daily Il Corriere della Sera reported on Tuesday.

"We have always appreciated the Pope's openness toward Islam -- I mean toward authentic Islam, and not its deformations," Scialoja said. "Whatever serves to avoid confusion between politics and religion is welcome."

For his part, Amos Luzzatto, president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Italy, described the Holy Father's invitation as "sincere" and "fervent", the newspaper reported.

"I agree with this type of symbolic gestures when necessary, such as now, given the ongoing war," Luzzatto added. "However, in order to uproot all spirit of opposition I believe it is fundamental to implement a broad educational endeavour, because certain prejudices of the Western world cannot be addressed in a few hours."