Below is the Vatican-provided text of the Holy Father’s last discourse in Bari on July 7, 2018. It followed the private dialogue with Christian leaders and patriarchs representing Middle East Christians to reflect and pray for the region today, in the southern Italian city of Bari, where the Pope convoked a day of prayer for peace and reflection for the Middle East with the regions’ Christian leaders:
I am most grateful for this moment. Christians in the Middle East. This presence will be all the more prophetic to the extent that it bears witness to Jesus, the Prince of Peace (see Is 9: 5). Jesus does not draw a sword; instead, he asks his disciples to put it back in its sheath (see Jn18:11). Our way of being Church is also tempted by worldly attitudes, by a concern for power and profit, for quick and convenient solutions. Then too, there is the reality of our sinfulness, the disconnect between faith and life that obscures our witness. We feel our need for a renewed conversion to the Gospel, the guarantee of authentic freedom, and our need to do urgently, as the Middle East endures a night of agony. In the garden of Gethsemane, it will not be flight (see Mt 26:56) or the sword (see Mt26:52) that will lead to the radiant dawn of Easter. Instead, it will be our gift of self, in imitation of the lord.
The Good News of Jesus, came from the Middle East and it’s not just about the power of the cross. The Gospel invites us to daily conversion to God’s plans; en invites us to find our safety and consolation in him alone, and to make him known to everyone despite all obstacles. I am deeply rooted in the Middle East, is the wellspring from which we can draw water to drink and be purified. The Holy Land or the shrines of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and the other holy places in the region.
Encouraged by one another, we have engaged in the fraternal dialogue. It has been a sign of our need for pursuing encounter and unity without being afraid of our differences. So it is with peace: it is a must to be cultivated in the parched soil of conflict and discord, because today, in spite of everything, there is no real alternative to peacemaking. Truces maintained by walls and displays of power will not lead to peace, but only the concrete desire to listen and to engage in dialogue. We commit ourselves to walking, praying and working together, in the hope that the art of encounter will prevail over strategies of conflict. In the Hope that the display of threatening signs of power will yield to the power of signs: men and women of good faith, unfraid of dialogue, open to the ideas of others and concerned for their good. Only in this way, one of the best bread and work, dignity and hope, will be the songs of war.
If this is to be the case in power choose and decide to work for peace. Let there be a few! No more occupying territories and thus tearing people apart! No more letting half-truths continue to frustrate people’s aspirations! Let’s get to the Middle East!
War is the scourge that tragically assails this beloved region. The poor are its principal victims. Let us think only of war-torn Syria. War is the daughter of power and poverty.
So many conflicts have been stoked too much by forms of fundamentalism and fanaticism that have been profaned God’s name – which is peace – and persecuted age-old neighbors. Violence is always fueled by weapons. You can not speak of peace while you are secretly racing to stockpile new arms. This is a very serious responsibility for the conscience of nations, especially the most powerful. Let us not forget the last century. Let us not forget the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Let us not turn the Middle East, where the Word of peace sprang up, into dark stretches of silence. Let us have enough of stubborn opposition! Enough of the thirst for profit that surreptitiously exploits oil and gas fields without regard for our common home, with no scruples about the fact that energy market now dictates the law of coexistence among peoples!
To blaze paths of peace, let us turn our gaze instead of those who are brothers and sisters. May every community be protected, not simply the majority. Let the way to the right of the common citizenship be opened in the Middle East. Christians too are, and ought to be, full citizens enjoying equal rights.
Hope has the face of children. Violent deaths in their families and see their native land threatened. This is the death of hope. More than one of the children of the age of playgrounds. May humanity listen – this is my plea – to the cry of children, whose mouths proclaim the glory of God (see Ps 8: 3). Only by wiping away their tears will the world recover its dignity.
With this concern for the children, we will shortly let our desire for peace take over by releasing some doves. May the longing for peace rise higher than any dark cloud. May our hearts remain united, as in the days of the Flood (see Gen 8:11), in an expectation of a fresh twig of hope. And the Middle East may no longer be an ark of war lying between continents, but an ark of peace That welcomes peoples of different backgrounds and beliefs. Beloved Middle East, power, violence, fanaticism, unfair gains, exploitation, poverty, inequality and lack of respect for rights. “May peace be upon you” ( Ps 122: 8), may justice dwell within your borders, and may God’s blessing come to rest upon you.
[Vatican-provided text of Pope’s prepared speech]