To my dear Brother
Mons. Matteo Maria Zuppi
Archbishop of Bologna
Illustrious representatives of the Christian Churches and Communities, and the great world religions,
I extend my greetings to you on the occasion of the Meeting of Prayer for Peace, organized by the Archdiocese of Bologna and the Community of Sant’Egidio. It follows the trail of the historic meeting that took place in October thirty-two years ago in Assisi. Since then, the backdrops of history have changed greatly, often in a tragic way; these meetings, on the contrary, have endured, like a red thread that along the years testifies the constant need to beg tirelessly together for the gift of peace.
This year’s chosen title, “Bridges of Peace”, while evoking the singular architecture of the arcades that characterize Bologna - city of which I hold a lively and grateful memory for my visit last year -, is an invitation to create connections that lead to real encounters, bonds that unify, paths that help to overcome conflicts and harshness. In the globalized world, where sadly it seems increasingly easy to dig distances and hide inside one’s own interests, we are urged to commit ourselves together to unite persons and peoples.
It is urgent to elaborate together memories of communion that heal the wounds of history, it is urgent to weave fabrics of peaceful living together for the future.
We cannot give up to the demon of war, to the madness of terrorism, to the deceiving power of weapons that devour life. We cannot let indifference take hold of men and women, making them accomplices of evil, that most horrific evil that is war, whose cruelty is especially paid by the poorest and the weakest. We cannot shirk our responsibility as believers, called all the more in today’s global village to hold dear to our hearts everyone’s wellness and to not be content with our own undisturbed living. Religions, if they do not pursue paths of peace, deny their very selves. They can do nothing but build bridges, in the name of the One who is never tired of joining together Heavens and earth. Therefore, our differences must not put us one against the other: the heart of anyone who truly believes urges him or her to open up, always and everywhere, ways of communion.
In Assisi, two years ago, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the first meeting in the city of Saint Francis, I emphasized our responsibility as believers to build a world in peace. Wishing to join all of you once again, I would like to echo some words from that event: “We who are here together and in peace believe and hope in a fraternal world. We desire that men and women of different religions may everywhere gather and promote harmony, especially where there is conflict. Our future consists in living together. For this reason we are called to free ourselves from the heavy burdens of distrust, fundamentalism and hate. Believers should be artisans of peace in their prayers to God and in their actions for humanity! As religious leaders, we are duty bound to be strong bridges of dialogue, creative mediators of peace. We turn to those who hold the greatest responsibility in the service of peoples, to the leaders of nations, so that they may not tire of seeking and promoting ways of peace, looking beyond self-serving interests and those of the moment: may they not remain deaf to God’s appeal to their consciences, to the cry of the poor for peace and to the healthy expectations of younger generations”.
In fact, I would like to invite you to boldly involve the youth, so that they may grow at the school of peace and become builders and educators of peace. In these days the Catholic Church is questioning itself particularly concerning the younger generations. The world they live in often appears hostile to their future and violent towards the weak: many have not seen peace yet and many do not know what a decent life is. As believers, we cannot ignore how urgent it is to heed the cry that rises from their hearts, for peace and for building together the future that belongs to them. Therefore it is necessary to build bridges between generations, bridges to walk upon hand-in-hand while listening to each other.
During the World Youth Day 2016, to the youth gathered in Krakow, I said: “Life nowadays tells us that it is much easier to concentrate on what divides us, what keeps us apart. People try to make us believe that being closed in on ourselves is the best way to keep safe from harm. […] Have the courage to teach us, have the courage to show us that it is easier to build bridges than walls! We need to learn this. […] May you point the finger at us, if we choose the path of walls, the path of enmity, the path of war”. The passion for peace makes everyone younger where it really counts: in the heart. Today, holding tight to each other, men and women of different faiths and generations, you show that with God’s help building peace together is possibile. It is the path to pursue. I thank you all and wish you a good journey, for everyone’s sake.
From the Vatican, 11th October 2018