First of all, I would like to express my pleasure to host the 25th World Meeting for Peace in our city of Barcelona. From the altar of this beautiful church, I thank the Community of Sant'Egidio and its founder, the esteemed Professor Andrea Riccardi, who graciously accepted my offer to host this Meeting in Barcelona for the second time. This gathering is the parable of the future, of a better future we yearn for - with God's help - for the world, aided by the contribution that religions can and ought to devote to the cause of living together, in peace, freedom and justice. This city still cherishes the vivid remembrance of the 15th Meeting "People and Religions", held in early September 2001.
I share the responsibility of reflecting on the Liturgy of today with my dear brother, His Eminence Filaret, Metropolitan of the Moscow Patriarchate. My reflections are offered as a contribution to enlighten our souls and to prepare ourselves to fruitfully participate to this new interfaith meeting. We are all motivated by what is called the spirit of Assisi, recalling the meeting in October 1986 convened by Pope John Paul II– whose invitation many religious leaders generously accepted at that time.
The first consideration is on the text of the prophet Habakkuk we just listened to. It is a prophetic text of the 7th century B.C., which begins with a lamentation that may seem alien to our times. On the contrary, it bears a message for the contemporary world: the prophet complains about God’s apparent passive acceptance of many injustices. He says: “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds”.
This is what we see, brothers and sisters, in today’s world. In preparing to concentrate in these three days on coexistence in time of crisis, on a new vision of the "family of God and family of peoples", we may be tempted to give in to discouragement, like those who complain: "We offer a vision, but the reality is somehow different. We suggest hope, but in reality, what prevails is violent conflict. We offer peace, but strife and contention overwhelm us”.
In the face of all this, dear brothers and sisters, I fraternally call upon you, and upon myself, to be men and women of faith. If we follow the answer the Prophet heard, we will not lose hope. The Lord of justice and peace will succeed. Let us listen, with an open mind. Let us pay attention to the messages of peace, coexistence, brotherhood and compassion, which are at the core of all major religious traditions.
The prophet in the Bible says: “Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith”. Faith is not a human achievement; it is a gift of the grace of Christ that needs to be asked for. The history of genuine apostolate and of holiness is a history of epic achievements of what is “humanly impossible” - and nevertheless attained by the Spirit of God, whose instruments are “men and women of faith”. May we always be men and women who care for the fate of all people. May our hearts and minds resist to pride, and be filled with awareness and compassion. We must be righteous men and women by living through faith. We must be men and women who live by their faith.
For my second reflection, allow me to express myself in the language of Catalonia, the mother tongue of many who are listening to me, right now.
In the second reading we heard Saint Paul invite us to rekindle the gifts of God that are within us, and call upon us to do so with a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. This is excellent guidance for our endeavour during these days in Barcelona. The Meeting “People and Religions”, which is also known as “Prayer for Peace”, continues its journey in the name of God, following the spirit of Assisi. That is why today we highlight that this meeting is the 25th meeting.
We have to lift up our hearts to God, and thank Him for the gifts he granted us in this quarter of a century. We already completed a long distance, and we have to acknowledge that the fruits have been plenty, and good. This awareness encourages us to endure in our journey. We still have a long way to go.
But if we look back to what we have achieved to date, we can affirm that the spirit of Assisi activated a brotherhood of thousands of people, uniting them during all these years in a common vision capable of overcoming all frontiers and obstacles. Men and women of religion, thinkers, politicians, economists, realized that the spirit of Assisi touched their hearts and minds; this has made them, to the extent it was possible, humble servants of coexistence and peace in their respective societies, and in today’s globalized and plural world.
All the men and women who contributed to the 25 editions of the Prayer for Peace are a living witness. They show that such an achievement can become true thanks to friendship, in a world that is built by the art of living together. The Prayer for Peace is made true by faith in the God of peace, who yearns for the well-being of all his children, especially the weak, the fragile and the suffering.
My third reflection will be in Italian, mindful of so many nationals of this fellow country who are here in Barcelona. I actually believe that today’s Gospel can help us to live with spiritual intensity all the events that our Meeting encompasses. Jesus tells us that faith can make miracles happen. We truly believe in this. Faith can make the miracle of converting hearts and minds, of changing the world.
We have to believe that faith can make the miracle happen, by fulfilling the vision of the Meeting of Barcelona: “Living Together in a Time of Crisis”, and by building the “Family of Peoples, Family of God”. This is the challenge for today, vis-à-vis the temptation of isolation, confrontation, and of overcoming the crisis by ourselves and only to our benefit. The message that comes from this Meeting is the sole alternative to war, conflict and mistrust. Living together, by keeping one’s own identity and prerogatives and at the same time respecting the identity and the prerogatives of the other, is the right direction for our plural and globalized world.
As we use to say in these meetings of people and religions, peace is a workshop open to all, peace is a reality we all have to contribute to. Only by living in this spirit, only together, nourished by dialogue and generosity in going towards those who are different, will we be capable of identifying a genuine and encouraging vision for the present times, and for the future.
Today’s liturgy calls us to be men and women of faith and spiritual power (first reading); it calls each of us to thank God and to make the best use of the gifts we received; it asks us to rekindle the gift of God to our own spirit (second reading); it challenges us to make all efforts so that this faith may become strength and fervour in the quest for peace and coexistence among peoples, so that they may be not only a family of peoples, but also a family of God. Once all these goals are achieved, let us be humble and place our confidence in God’s help, and finally say, as today’s Gospel proposes to us: “we are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty”.
+ Lluís Martínez Sistach
Cardinal Archbishop of Barce1lona