Pope Francis says that it is “violence” to build walls to keep out those seeking peace, and to widen the gulf between those who have so much they waste what’s extra and those who lack what they need.
The Pope said this in a message dated Aug. 29 and directed to the International Meeting for Peace, organized each year by the Sant’Egidio Community.
The meetings, as Pope Francis’ message recalled, follow in the wake “traced by Saint John Paul II with the first historic Meeting of Assisi in October of 1986. Since then a pilgrimage of men and women of different religions has developed.”
This year’s meeting was held in Tirana, Albania, and the Pope’s message recalled his own visit there.
“In no other country of the world was the decision so strong to exclude God from the life of a people: just one religious sign was enough to be punished with prison if not death. This very sad primacy marked the Albanian people profoundly, until the moment of their rediscovered freedom, when the members of the different religious communities, tried by the common suffering endured, met again to live together in peace,” he said.Living together in peace is the spirit of Assisi, the Pope said, adding that “prayer is always at the root of peace!”
“And precisely because it has its foundation in God, ‘peace is always possible,’ as the title of your Meeting of this year affirms,” the Holy Father continued. “It is necessary to reaffirm this truth especially today, while in some parts of the world violence, persecutions and abuses of power against religious freedom seem to prevail, together with resignation in face of the conflicts that they cause. We must never be resigned to war! And we cannot remain indifferent in face of those who suffer because of war and violence.”
The Pope continued: “However, it is also violence to erect walls and barriers to block those seeking a place of peace. It is violence to push back those fleeing from inhuman conditions in the hope of a better future. It is violence to exclude children and the elderly from society and from life itself! It is violence to widen the gulf between one that wastes the superfluous and one that lacks what is necessary!”
Still, he said, faith makes us believe that peace is possible.
“It is faith that pushes us to trust in God and not to be resigned to the work of evil,” the Pontiff affirmed. “As believers we are called to rediscover that universal vocation to peace deposited in the heart of our different religious traditions, and to propose it again with courage to the men and women of our time.”
Pope Francis said it is not naive to hold that peace is always possible because it “expresses our faith that nothing is impossible for God.”
“We are certainly asked for involvement, be it personal or of our communities, in the great work of peace,” he said. “May a new prophecy of peace begin from the land of Albania, land of martyrs.”
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