Papal Message to Munich Interreligious Meeting

«We Have to Learn Not to Live Next to One Another But With One Another»

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 14, 2011 ( Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI addressed to Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, on the occasion of the «‘Bound to Live Together’: Religions and Culture in Dialogue» meeting, being held in this city.

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To my honorable brother
Reinhard Cardinal Marx
Archbishop of Munich and Freising

In a few weeks it will be exactly 25 years since Blessed John Paul II invited representatives of the different world religions to Assisi for an international meeting of prayer for peace. Following on this, the Sant’Egidio community has organized this meeting for peace every year to deepen this spirit of peace and reconciliation and so that in prayer we let God make us into people of peace. I am happy that this year’s meeting takes place in Munich, my former episcopal see, and shortly before my visit to Germany and in anticipation of the 25th anniversary of the Assisi world prayer meeting that will be celebrated in October. I would like to assure the organizers and participants of my spiritual nearness to them, and I offer them all my heartfelt best wishes.

The theme of the peace meeting, «Bound to live together,» reminds us that we as human beings are bound to each other. This living together is in fact a precondition that derives from our being human. And it is our duty to give it a positive content. This living together can transform itself into living against one another, can become a hell if we do not learn to accept one another, if everyone only wants to be himself or herself. But it can also be a gift when we open up to one another, when we give ourselves to one another. So what matters is to understand the precondition of living together as a task and a gift, to find the true way to live together. This living together that in the past could be limited regionally today can only be lived universally. The subject of living together today is humanity as a whole. Meetings like the one in Assisi and also the one now in Munich are occasions for religions to investigate themselves and ask how they can become forces of living together.

When we gather as Christians we remind ourselves that according to the biblical faith God is the creator of all humanity; yes, he wants us to be one family in which we are brothers and sisters for one another. We remind ourselves that Christ announced peace for those far away and peace for those near to us (Ephesians 2:16). We have to learn this time and again. The deep sense of these meetings is that we meet those far away and those near to us in the same spirit of peace that Christ lived and taught us through his example. We have to learn not to live next to one another but with one another. That means opening our hearts to one another, letting our neighbors participate in our joys, hopes, and sorrows. The heart is the place where God touches us. That’s why religion, which is about the meeting of people with the divine mystery, is essentially linked to the question of peace. When religion fails in this meeting with God, when it pulls Him down to us instead of raising us up to Him, when we, so to say, make him our possession, then it can contribute to the destruction of peace. But if it finds the way to the divine, to the creator and redeemer of all people, then it is a force for peace. We know that also in Christianity there have been errors of the image of God that have led to the destruction of peace. Even more, we are all called to let ourselves be purified by the divine God and thus become people of peace.

We may never diminish our efforts for peace. Therefore the numerous initiatives everywhere in the world, like the annually organized meetings for peace of Sant’Egidio and similar meetings are very valuable. The field on which the fruit of peace should grow, must be constantly tended. Often we cannot do more than prepare continuously, and in many small steps, the ground for peace in us and around us, also when coping with the large challenges, which not only concern the individual but the entire human family, like migration, globalization, economic crisis, protection of creation. In the end, we know that peace cannot simply be «made» but is always also «given.» «Peace is a gift of God and at the same time a plan that has to be realized and that is never completely finished» (Message to World Peace Day 2011, 15). Especially here a common testimony is needed of all those who sincerely search for God to realize more and more the vision of a peaceful living together of all people. Since the first meeting in Assisi 25 years ago there have been, and there are, a lot of hopeful initiatives for reconciliation and peace, and unfortunately also a lot of lost opportunities and set backs.

Terrible acts of violence and terror often have suffocated the hope for peaceful living together of the human family at the dawn of the third millennium, old conflicts continue or are reawakened, new conflicts and problems arise alongside of these. All this shows us clearly that peace is a never-ending task for all of us and a gift which we should all invoke. May in this sense the peace meeting in Munich and the conferences and conversations that take place there promote reciprocal understanding and living together, and so prepare new paths for peace in our time. Therefore I will invoke the blessing of the Almighty God on all participants of the peace meeting in Munich.

Castel Gandolfo, 1 September 2011
Benedict XVI

[Translation provided by the Sant’Egidio Community]
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