Metropolitan Seraphim, Rumanian Orthodox Church
International Peace Meeting
Krakow, 6th September 2009
(John 20, 19-31)
Your Eminency, dear Cardinal Dziwisz,
Dear friends in the Episcopate,
Dear friends of the Community of Sant’Egidio,
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
It is a great honour for me to be with you, united in prayer in this place of pilgrimage where many faithful pray and entrust their requests to Divine mercy. This is the place where we start our great Meeting and where we entrust our prayer for peace to the merciful Lord, 70 years after the beginning of World War II, which caused so much suffering among peoples, cultures and religions, in Europe and all over world, and which started here in Poland.
As Christians we know that peace always is a gift of God, we know that without the Lord we can never build it or keep it. From the Gospel we heard how the first words of the Risen Christ to his disciples were indeed the gift of peace: “Peace be with you!”. Christ himself is a source of peace to us. Had they not met him, his disciples would not have peace, nor be able to give it to others, or make it. That is why, for us Christians, meeting the Risen in the Eucharistic Liturgy is of vital importance.
But the Gospel explains to us a second aspect of this apparition: the Risen shows his hands and his side to his disciples. After he has spoken to them he draws their attention to his wounds and, through this, to his suffering. He invites Thomas, who was unable to believe in the resurrection and in the power of divine love which can create new life even out of death, to touch his wounds. Indeed, faith in the resurrection is born and strengthened by touching the Lord’s wounds. This is what we have experienced during our pilgrimages of prayer for peace since Assisi. For we did not invent a theory on peace. On the contrary, meeting the suffering and the wounds of violence, terror and war, made us understand that the Risen has given us a new power, the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of peace, which turns us into workers for peace beyond all boundaries of nation, religion and culture, to transfigure all the suffering, all the misery in the world through the power of the Resurrection.
I would like to thank the Community of Sant’Egidio for her faithfulness and for the perseverance with which for many years she has helped us to touch and to treat the wounds of the poor and to lighten their suffering. The Community teaches us that the poor and the suffering are our teachers of peace because they help us to be people of peace. Indeed, through a merciful attitude towards the poor, by caring for the suffering of men, women and peoples, we become merciful ourselves, peaceful and full of goodness.
Yes, world peace can never be imposed by force, as the honourable Pope John Paul II, who grew and worked as Archbishop in this beautiful city, always said. Peace is the fruit of divine mercy, a gift of the Risen Christ and it is acquired through prayer and personal ascetics, and by loving and serving the poor and the suffering. That is why the memory of suffering is an important part of our Meetings of peace, after the one in Assisi in 1986.
Today we have gathered here from many countries, from many Churches and Christian denominations. We can look upon the recent past with gratitude and thank the Lord for the decades of peace in Europe, as well as for the disappearance of political systems that believed they could do without God and his mercy. After the terrible years of war and communist dictatorship which devastated many countries and caused the death of millions of people, God gave us the miraculous gifts of peace and of united Europe. After years when Evil ruled over so many hearts and brought death to the world, this now is a true experience of resurrection. As Bishop of a European country of Orthodox tradition, I would like to thank the Lord with you for the gift of peace and the liberation from the communist dictatorship which he has given to us in his divine mercy. But today there are other demons that endanger us: the demons of secularization, limitless consumption, the pleasures of the flesh, the selfishness of money… Andrea Riccardi rightly says that today we live in a “dictatorless dictatorship”.
Therefore, together with Thomas, we can cry out 'My Lord and my God!'. We repeat these words fully convinced that Christ has risen from the dead and he is the source of peace through which we can overcome every evil within us and around us! Today, to Him, the Lord and God of the universe, we entrust our continent, Europe, and beyond that, the whole world in which there are still too many conflicts, too many wars and too much violence. Now we pray to Him, to fill our hearts with his peace and his love during these days in Krakow and in Auschwitz, so that we may become true disciples and passionate workers of peace and reconciliation in our countries and in our Churches.
We are aware that peace is not something we achieve once and for all, it is a gift that must be conquered by our hearts through prayer, fasting, forgiveness, love for the poor and the suffering. In Europe we received the great gift of peace but we must not keep it to ourselves and close our lives in selfish consumerism and personal wellbeing. The gift of peace is a duty and a mission; it must be transmitted to the world, especially where men and women suffer, wherever we see and touch the wounds of the Risen.
Let us pray the Lord also to breathe upon us, as he did on his disciples on the day of the Resurrection, to fill us with his Holy Spirit, Spirit of peace, forgiveness and mercy.