Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to those present.
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Distinguished Representatives of the Churches, of the Ecclesial Communities and of the great religions,
I thank you joyfully from my heart for having made this visit. You are living intense days in this meeting, which brings together people from different religions and which has a significant and demanding title: “The Courage of Hope.” I thank Professor Andrea Riccardi for the words of greeting he addressed to me on behalf of all and, with him, Sant’Egidio Community for having followed tenaciously the path traced by Blessed John Paul II in the historic meeting of Assisi: keep the lamp of hope lit, praying and working for peace. It was in 1986, in a world still marked by the division of opposing blocs, and it was in that context that the Pope invited the religious leaders to pray for peace: no longer one against another, but one beside the other. It should not and could not remain an isolated event. You have continued this path and have increased its impulse, involving in the dialogue significant personalities of all the religions, and lay and humanistic exponents. Precisely in these months we feel that the world is in need of the “spirit” that animated that historic meeting. Why? Because it is in such need of peace. No! We can never be resigned in face of the pain of entire populations, hostages of war, of misery, of exploitation. We cannot be indifferent and impotent in face of the drama of children, families, elderly affected by violence. We cannot let terrorism imprison the heart of a few violent men to sow grief and death to so many. In a special way we all say forcefully, continually, that there can be no religious justification for violence, in whatever way it manifests itself. As Pope Benedict XVI stressed two years ago, on the 25th anniversary of the Assisi meeting, we must do away with every form of religiously motivated violence, and watch together so that the world will not fall prey to that violence contained in every project of civilization that is based on “no” to God.
As leaders of the different religions we can do very much. Peace is everyone’s responsibility. To pray for peace, to work for peace! A religious leader is always a man of peace, because the commandment of peace is inscribed in the depth of the religious traditions we represent. But, what can we do? Your meeting with one another every year suggests the way to you: the courage of dialogue, which gives hope. In the world also, in societies, there is little peace because dialogue is lacking, it is hard to come out of the narrow horizon of one’s interests to open to a true and sincere encounter. Peace needs a tenacious, patient, strong, intelligent dialogue where nothing is lost. Dialogue can defeat war. Dialogue makes people of different generations live together, who often ignore one another; it makes citizens of different ethnic provenance and different convictions live together. Dialogue is the way of peace. Because dialogue fosters understanding, harmony, concord, peace. Because of this, it is vital that it grow, that it spread among people of every condition and conviction as a network of peace that protects the world and the weakest.
We, religious leaders, are called to be “dialoguers,” to act in the making of peace not as intermediaries, but as genuine mediators. Intermediaries seek to make reduction to all parties, in order to obtain a gain for themselves. Instead, a mediator is one who does not take anything for himself but spends himself generously, to the point of consuming himself, knowing that the only gain is that of peace. Each one of us is called to be an artisan of peace, uniting and not dividing, extinguishing hatred and not harboring it, opening the ways of dialogue and not raising new walls! We must dialogue, meet with one another to establish in the world the culture of dialogue, the culture of encounter.
The legacy of the first Assisi meeting , nourished a year after, year also in your journey, shows how dialogue is profoundly connected with each one’s prayer. Dialogue and prayer grow and wither together. Man’s relationship with God is the school and food of dialogue with men. Pope Paul VI spoke of the “transcendental origin of dialogue” and he said: “Religion is by its nature a relationship between God and man. Prayer expresses this relationship through dialogue“(Encyclical Ecclesiam suam, 72). Let us continue to pray for peace in the world, in Syria, in the Middle East, in so many countries of the world. This courage of peace gives the courage of hope in the world, to all those who suffer because of war; to young people who look with concern to their future. May Almighty God, who hears our prayers, support us on this path of peace. And I would like to suggest now that each one of us, all of us, in the presence of God, in silence, wish one another peace.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]