Dear friends of the Community of Sant’Egidio,
Brothers and sisters,
It is a joy for me to celebrate the Holy Eucharist at the beginning of the day of the Lord, sharing with you this prayer for peace. We sit at the table of the Word and the Bread. The Altar is Christ. He is our peace; our unity, our brotherhood. He makes us one people, blessed by God’s love, though our origins and current history may differ.
Here we discover that we take part in a source of good that comes from Above, which has perfused history in these last decades, starting with the memorable meeting of prayer for peace summoned in Assisi by our beloved Pope John Paul II and carried on through the efforts of the Community of Sant’Egidio. In Cyprus we breath the "spirit of Assisi". We breath deeply, because the east and the west have set a meeting to confess together the Lord of peace to the world.
I give praise to God for the presence on this island of an Orthodox Church that throughout the centuries has kept the faith of the apostles alive, widening its heart to the other Christian Churches. On behalf of us all, I thank his Beatitude the Archbishop Chysostomos, for his generous hospitality, and accepting the invitation of the apostle Paul, who journeyed through Cyprus and whose birth jubilee is celebrated by the Catholic Church this year – I offer to him the embrace and kiss of peace in Christ.
The parable of the talents, which the Lord gives to us through the Evangelist Matthew, is in tune with our meeting and it enables us to immediately envision the vocation of the Community of Sant’Egidio. It is called to collect every fragment of communion between religions and peoples so that nothing is lost of what can establish unity within the human family, which is beloved by the one God, Creator and Father. In this Eucharist the Spirit of the Risen gives us the gift of the multiform talents of God.
First of all, welcoming: "He who receives you receives me and the one who sent me". Like Mary, let us welcome the Envoy of God, remembering that God wishes to pass by and change history through the mystery that lies in mutual welcoming, that is a Christian imperative.
Just as patience is a Christian imperative, which is required by welcoming when it is authentic: the patience of sincere understanding of the other, free from prejudice; the patience of dialogue and collaboration, that involves an effort to accept diversity, but also poverty and weakness in each other, without of course justifying the latter. If we evade this patience, we run the risk of missing the One who passes by. And the great Augustine of Ippona teaches us fear of the Lord who passes by and may not come back. We then come to hope, which is always associated to Christian welcoming and patience. History will never deny Christian hope or prove it wrong: the fruit of this talent is certain and abundant, because it is assured to us by the Crucifix-Risen, who clothed the scandal of the cross in the light of Easter.
Welcoming, patience and hope are sure means of cultivating the true talent that religions are. All religions are an extraordinary vital force for humanity. On condition that they remain open to the truth and are seen for what they should be, in relation to God and to humankind, without other interests of individuals or groups; and on condition that every religion is enhanced in its peculiarity, remaining true and never renouncing to itself, never yielding to undue confusion or syncretism.
We thank God our Father for the Christian religion, which is the Revelation offered to humankind by sole grace: the revelation of his coming in the Son, the Word made flesh, and the revelation of his remaining with us through the power of the Spirit that is God.
Christianity is a gift for Europe and for the world. Christianity tends toward the development of every man and every woman, in his or her historical and eternal vocation, inseparably asserted and preserved, and jealously protected in order not to mortify human beings and their destiny by denying their innermost identity. In this perspective I give thanks to God for the talent represented by the Oriental Churches. They are the custodians of Christian origins, and without them there is no future for the universal Church (Benedict XVI).
Thanks to religions, thanks to Christianity, thanks to the Oriental Christian Churches, we shall be able to cultivate the talent of peace, beseeching God to grant it and humankind not to hide it out of fear of losing it, that it may rather invest it in thoughts, words and deeds of peace! And may it multiply everywhere and produce a hundred-fold!
Dear brothers and sisters, dear friends,
I have just recently taken part in a pilgrimage of peace in the footsteps of the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankar saints of India. In particular, I went to the places where the first Indian saint, a religious woman called Alphonsa, canonised by Pope Benedict XVI on 12th October 2008, was born and grew in Christ. Everywhere I prayed for peace for Orissa. And now I pray for true peace around this Mediterranean Sea, on whose shores lie the Holy Land, Lebanon, the continent of Africa. I pray for Iraq, for all the East and the West. The last act of my pilgrimage in India was the prayer to Mary in the new Basilica of the Syro-Malankar Church devoted to Mary Queen of Peace. Together with you, who allow yourselves to be fascinated by the beauty and chances of peace, who firmly believe in peace and hope in peace against all hope, I renew this prayer to God through the hands of Mary.
I ask Christ to knock on the hearts of all Christians, and I call upon the other religions, with cordiality and respect, and upon all men and women of good will, upon the leaders of the earth, for everyone to give not what is superfluous, but the best of what they are for the construction of peace.
And may the God of peace let his face shine upon us all, and make us true instruments of his love, filling us with his blessings. Amen!