Holinesses, Eminences, Excellencies, dear friends,
I came to Rome in the midst of much criticism and anxiety about the movement and gathering of people in the wake of the new coronavirus. This is because I want to be a friend of the friends of Sant’ Edigio.
A Japanese poet, Akito Shima, committed robbery and murder out of hunger. He was arrested and he was sentenced to death. While in the death row, he started to write a poem containing the following lines:
"Here, in a death row, my hands, the hands that strangled a person to death, now arrange flowers.".
This poem portrays the fact that in the same person there can be evil and good. It also tells each of us can be good or can exercise the same evil power of the weapons: the words that come out from our mouth can hurt others; if we glare with our eyes at someone, we can deeply offend him or her. We all tend instinctively to create divisions among people. We all tend to disparage others and to beat our competitors. It is up to the person’s consciousness to determine whether and how we need to weaponise ourselves.
Let me quote another poem:
"I am on death row, hungry for love.
I have some sweets given to me.
I put the sweets on the ground, waiting for ants to come.".
I feel a fundamental human orientation in this second poem. Humans are anxious to have a deep relationship with others. It is almost impossible for a death row to please someone, so the prisoner puts the sweets on the ground with the hope to please the tiny ants. This poem affirms that no one can become happy, no one can fill one’s own heart without having a relationship with the others.
Shima had deprived another human being of her life, so he left the following words: "I’m afraid of not being able to compensate for the loss of the victim’s life!"
I have been involved in inter-religious dialogue for a long time. I believe that all religious people should have a strong cooperation among themselves so that all people, regardless of the differences of their religion or cultural position, can be accepted in their entirety. I have also become profoundly convinced that the death penalty is a denial of human dignity. And I have become deeply aware that violence and wars are man-made conducts. So that if a man is the origin of war, he can also be the origin of peace. I am firmly convinced that dialogue is a path that opens our hearts and makes us take one step towards the heart of the others.
Let me conclude my speech by saying:
Let us disarm our hearts together and let us go on the way one step more towards our seeking world, a World of Fraternity and Peace!