Here is a Zenit translation of the message that the Pope Francis sent to H.E. Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra, Archbishop of Madrid, and to the participants in the 33rd International Prayer Meeting for Peace in the “Spirit of Assisi,” organized by Sant’Egidio Community in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Madrid, being held in Madrid from September 15-17, on the theme ”Peace Without Borders.
ZENIT Senior Vatican Correspondent is on the ground in Madrid.
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To His Eminence
Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra
Archbishop of Madrid
And to the Participants in the Prayer Meeting for Peace “Peace without Borders”
Madrid, September 15-17, 2019
I greet with joy and gratitude Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra, Archbishop of Madrid, and all of you, representatives of the Christian Churches and Communities and of the World Religions, gathered in Madrid for the 33rd Prayer Meeting for Peace, organized jointly by Sant’Egidio Community and the Archdiocese of Madrid. It is a source of joy to see that this pilgrimage of peace, which began after the World Day of Prayer for Peace, convoked by Saint John Paul II in Assisi in October of 1986, has never been interrupted, but continues and grows in the number of participants and in fruits of goodness. It is a pilgrimage that has gone to towns and cities to give witness everywhere of the strength of that “Spirit of Assisi,” which is prayer to God and promotion of peace among peoples.
This year its itinerary reaches Madrid, to reflect on the theme ”Peace Without Borders.” The mind flies to the past, when, in the heart of Europe thirty years ago, the Berlin Wall, fell and an end was put to that lacerating division of the Continent, which caused so much suffering. That day, from Berlin to the whole of Eastern Europe, new hopes of peace were enkindled, which extended throughout the world. It was the prayer for peace of so many sons and daughters of God, which contributed to accelerate that fall. Moreover, the biblical story of Jericho reminds us that walls fall where they are “besieged” with prayer and not arms, with yearning for peace and not conquest, when we dream of a good future for all. Therefore, it’s necessary to pray always and to dialogue in the perspective of peace: the fruits will come! Let us not be afraid, because the Lord listens to the prayer of His faithful people.
Unfortunately, in these two first decades of the 21st century we have witnessed, with great sadness, the waste of that gift of God that peace is, dilapidated with new wars and the building of new walls and barriers. After all, we know well that peace must increase ceaselessly, from generation to generation, with dialogue, encounter and negotiation. If the good of peoples and of the world is sought, it is foolish to close areas, separate peoples or, even more so, confront one another, deny hospitality to those that need it. Thus, the world is “broken,” using the same violence with which the environment is ruined and our common home is damaged, and asking instead for love, care, respect, just as humanity invokes peace and fraternity. Our common home cannot endure walls that separate and confront those that live there. Instead, it needs open doors that help to communicate with one another, to encounter one another, to cooperate to live together in peace, respecting the diversity and reinforcing the bonds of responsibility. Peace is like a house with many rooms, in which we are all called to dwell. Peace has no borders, always, without exceptions. Such was Saint John XXIII’s desire when, at a difficult moment, he wished to address all believers and men of good will, invoking “peace in all lands.”
Distinguished representatives of the Christian Churches and Communities, and of the great Religions of the world, with this, my greeting, I want to say to you that I am at your side during these days and, with you, I pray for peace to the only One who can give it to us. In the tradition of these International Prayer Meetings for Peace — as that of Assisi in 2016, in which I also took part, the prayer that goes up to God occupies the most important and decisive place. It unites us all in a common sentiment, without any confusion — close but not confused! as the yearning for peace is common, in the variety of religious experiences and traditions.
As believers, we are conscious that prayer is the root of peace. One who practices it is a friend of God, as Abraham was, model of the man of faith and hope. Prayer for peace, in this time marked by so many conflicts and violence, unites us all even more, beyond the differences, in the common commitment for a more fraternal world. We know well that fraternity among believes, in addition to being a barrier to enmities and wars, is ferment of fraternity among peoples. In this connection, in February of last year I signed in Abu Dhabi, together with the Gran Imam of Al Azhar, the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” — an important step in the path to world peace. Together we said that “religions never incite to violence and do not foster sentiments of hatred, hostility, extremism, or invite to violence or the shedding of blood.” I wish also to entrust the objectives of that Document to all of you taking part in this Prayer Meeting for Peace. The Spirit of Assisi, 800 years after Saint Francis’ meeting with the Sultan, also inspired the work that led us to the act of Abu Dhabi.
We are living a difficult moment for the world. We must all unite — I would say with tone same heart and one same voice –, to cry out that peace has no borders — a cry that rises from our heart. It is from there, in fact, from hearts where we must eradicate the borders that divide and confront; and it is in hearts where sentiments of peace and fraternity must be sown.
Distinguished representative of the Christian Churches and Communities and of the great Religions of the world, men and women of good will taking part in this Meeting, the great task of peace has also been put in our hands. May the God of peace give us abundance of wisdom, audacity, generosity and perseverance.
Vatican, September 13, 2019[Original text: Spanish] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]