In the catacombs of Rome in the third century, Christians sculpted statues and frescoes that depicted Jesus as a young man carrying a lamb around his neck – expressing in art the parable told in the Gospel of John: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” It is an eloquent metaphor, this good shepherd, but not sufficient by itself. How far physically can the shepherd go in defence of his flock? The statues and the frescoes don’t say.
Twenty-five years ago, in the Italian city of Assisi, John Paul II led worshippers from many flocks – the Dalai Lama, the Archbishop of Canterbury, native American Indians smoking peace pipes – in a day of prayer, an unprecedented truce, however brief, in the long and gory history of religious violence in the Western world.
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