I wish to thank everyone who in any way has prepared and partaken in this meeting in Bologna in the light of the Spirit of Assisi, this intertwining of dialogue, prayer and friendship. I wish to thank Bologna and its Archbishop for their friendly and true welcoming over these days. Today we are more aware that we are not imprisoned by the same fear that many of our fellow-citizens feel when facing the future of the world, marked by various conflicts and burdened with aggressiveness. Today’s prayer and our togetherness confirm to us that we do not stand alone in the face of the future, and we will not get out of it alone. Loneliness, such a widespread condition in our times, brings along a load of pessimism, it turns people aggressive, and it makes them afraid of encountering the other. We are not alone. Religions, in themselves, are communities of women and men, as in the ancient and much debated Latin etymon of religion: to tie, to gather, to choose. Today we see these religious communities drawn close in a fraternal bond, freed from ancient contrapositions and new seductions to fight each other. Not one against the other, but on the path to the future: without fear, because being together, turning towards God and prayer open up our hearts to a path of peace. In friendship, because friendship is the principle of life. Friendship enables persons, religions and even peoples to live.
Days like these in Bologna strengthen the belief that dialogue is – in different ways – the intimate feature of many religious worlds, I would say a decisive element in their identities: it comes from the depths of the heart and conscience of the believer and leans forward to build bridges towards the others. This world, where too many bridges have collapsed or have been destroyed and where little is invested in building them, must start again from dialogue. Dialogue is the key to the survival of the earth, because too many believe that war is the clean and surgical means to eradicate evil from the world. Dialogue is the heart of peace. And religions are called to spread in every land networks of dialogue and encounter: through prayer, they will protect the world from the temptations of war and from evil.
From Bologna, a city of culture and a welcoming place to many different people and many students, from the dialogues of these days, an urgent need rises, one shared by many people in every land: may a movement rise, grow, develop, a movement of hearts, thoughts, wills, and cultures for peace! Something new and ancient! Dear friends, this is not only a nice moment of peace among us, this is a movement of peace that grows and develops in the world!
Peace means to live together; to reject aggressive language; to say no to war. This demand for a movement of peace arises from the depths of religions and it is something new in history. It is also an answer to ongoing wars, where an end is begged for. By the cry of many who are suffering. A movement of peace is developing, inspired by religions, which does not resign to war or get used to the pain of many people. As tenacious as untiring prayer.
It is not an extemporary need, the one for a culture of peace (and in the panels we have had a large and profound proof of that) and for a network of peace that embraces the world. Perhaps deep down, within peoples, lies a yearning for goodness which at times does not find ways to express itself. May the women and men of religion be the ones who show that it is not useless to knock, to request, to protest, to invoke, because peace is always possible. Peoples are not harsh and mean, bound to clash: they need to be accompanied with love and trust, by building bridges. We are too resigned to the fact that there are no good energies in the hearts of peoples. They need to be drawn out: they exist and they are a profound and hidden strength.
We have a simple and decisive ideal, the spirit of Assisi. Pope Francis expressed it: “living the common passion for the growth of peaceful living together among all the people of the earth".
The mission of religions is to reveal the love that irradiates light and life, that helps recover the wish for peace, hospitality, and good. Let us not be pessimists. There are human and spiritual energies for a better world. To overcome war. To bring about a more fraternal world. To make friendship grow. Religions remind this to a forgetful and fearful humanity. And together with men and women of good will, they testify that peace is always possible. This is a strong belief and a great hope with which to look even towards dark and warlike horizons. Peace is possible, always. It needs to be sought fearlessly. And God never abandons the world to evil and to the logic of violence, instead he comes to aid our prayer, and he multiplies our efforts for peace. Let us continue to live joyfully this worldwide movement for peace.