Answering questions from the periodical Pacte in 1987, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre stated his views about the interreligious meeting called for by John Paul II in Assisi on October 27, 1986:
Monseigneur, your latest public statement is a violent protest against the prayer meeting in Assisi.... Don’t you get the impression that you are confusing the ecumenism of Pope Wojtyla with the distorted ideology of interreligious dialogue—so much in vogue in recent years—that denies the historical uniqueness of Christian salvation?
I see only one type of ecumenism, the type promoted by the Council, which underscores respect for and collaboration with false religions, which are placed on the same footing. This is a new concept, in contradiction with Tradition, which has been imposed in this way. In place of the “missionary” Church appears the new “ecumenical” Church.
The meeting in Assisi canonizes this new Church, and that is an immense scandal. On the other hand, this initiative has a significant precedent: almost a century ago, in 1894, in Chicago, a spectacular congress of world religions was held in which some American Catholic bishops participated. If you compare their speeches then with what the Pope said to the cardinals last December about the “spirit of Assisi,” you find impressive analogies.
But a century ago Pope Leo XIII unconditionally condemned the participation of the bishops of the United States in the Chicago Congress. No, this is a scandal, a public blasphemy: think of the Catholic missionaries in Africa who saw on television the representatives of the animist religions praying in Assisi at the Pope’s invitation.... In what spirit will they be able to continue their arduous work of evangelization among the populations who follow those pagan rituals? If salvation is possible even without conversion to Christ in the Church, and while continuing to adore one’s own false gods, what sense does mission work make? All religions, after all, are equal and good....
If this pope had lived at the time of the Roman persecutions in the early centuries, maybe Christianity would have found a respectable place in the Pantheon of religions.