WORDS OF THE HOLY FATHER
CONCLUSION OF DIALOGUE
Churchyard of the Basilica of San Nicola
Saturday, 7 July 2018
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am very grateful for the sharing we have had the grace of living. We have helped to rediscover our presence of Christians in the Middle East, as brothers. It will be all the more prophetic the more it will witness Jesus the prince of peace (cf. Is 9,5). He does not hold the sword, but asks his followers to put it back in its sheath (cf. Jn 18,11). Even our being Church is tempted by the logic of the world, logic of power and profit, hasty logic and convenience. And there is our sin, the inconsistency between faith and life, which obscures testimony. We feel that we have to convert once again to the Gospel, a guarantee of authentic freedom, and to do so urgently now, in the night of the Middle East in agony. As in the agonizing night of Gethsemane, it will not be the flight (cf. Mt 26,56) or the sword (cf. Mt 26,52) to anticipate the radiant dawn of Easter, but the gift of self in imitation of the Lord.
The good news of Jesus, crucified and risen for love, come from the lands of the Middle East, has conquered the heart of man down the centuries because it is linked not to the powers of the world, but to the helpless force of the cross. The Gospel commits us to a daily conversion to God's plans, to find in Him only security and comfort, to announce it to everyone and in spite of everything. The faith of the simple, so deeply rooted in the Middle East, is the source from which to draw and drink and purify us, as happens when we return to our origins, going pilgrims to Jerusalem, the Holy Land or the shrines of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and the other holy places of those regions.
Encouraged by each other, we interacted fraternally. It was a sign that encounter and unity are always sought, without fear of diversity. Peace is likewise: it must also be cultivated in dry lands of contrasts, because today, in spite of everything, there is no possible alternative to peace. Not the truces guaranteed by walls and strengths will bring peace, but the real will to listen and dialogue. We commit ourselves to walking, praying and working, and we implore that the art of encounter prevails over the strategies of confrontation, which at the ostentation of threatening signs of power take over the power of hopeful signs: men of good will and of different beliefs who they are not afraid to talk to each other, to accept the motives of others and to take care of each other. Only in this way, taking care that no one will lack bread and work, dignity and hope, the screams of war will change into songs of peace.
To do this it is essential that those in power finally and definitely set themselves to the true service of peace and not their own interests. Enough to the benefits of a few on the skin of many! Enough to the occupations of lands that tear the peoples! Enough to prevail the truth of part on people's hopes! Just use the Middle East for profits unrelated to the Middle East!
War is the scourge that tragically assails this beloved region. The poor people are the victims above all. Think of the battered Syria, especially the province of Deraa. There, bitter fighting resumed, causing a huge number of displaced people, exposed to terrible suffering. War is the daughter of power and poverty. It is defeated by renouncing the logic of supremacy and eradicating poverty. Many conflicts have also been fomented by forms of fundamentalism and fanaticism which, disguised as religious pretexts, have actually blasphemed the name of God, which is peace, and haunted the brother who has always lived beside. But violence is always fueled by weapons. You can not raise your voice to talk about peace while in secret you are pursuing unbridled races at the rear. It is a very serious responsibility, which weighs on the conscience of nations, especially the most powerful ones. Do not forget the last century, do not forget the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, do not transform the lands of the East, where the Word of Peace arose, in dark expanses of silence. No obstinate opposition is enough, enough to earn money, which does not look in the face of anyone but to grab deposits of gas and fuel, without restraint for the common home and unscrupulously on the fact that the energy market called the law of coexistence between peoples!
To open paths of peace, look instead at those who plead to live fraternally with others. All presences are protected, not just the majority ones. Also in the Middle East the road to the right to common citizenship is opened, a road to a renewed future. Even Christians are and are full citizens, with equal rights.
Strongly anguished, but never without hope, we turn our gaze to Jerusalem, city for all peoples, unique and sacred city for Christians, Jews and Muslims of the whole world, whose identity and vocation must be preserved beyond the various disputes and tensions, and whose status quo demands to be respected as deliberated by the international community and repeatedly requested by the Christian communities of the Holy Land. Only a solution negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians, firmly desired and favored by the Community of Nations, will lead to a stable and lasting peace, and guarantee the coexistence of two States for two peoples. Hope has the face of children. In the Middle East, for years, a frightening number of young cries violent deaths in the family and sees the native land threatened, often with the only prospect of having to flee. This is the death of hope. The eyes of too many children have spent most of their lives seeing rubble instead of schools, hearing the dull roar of bombs rather than the festive noise of games. Humanity hears - I beg you - the cry of children, whose mouth proclaims the glory of God (cf. Ps 8,3). It is by wiping their tears that the world will rediscover dignity. Thinking about children - let's not forget the children! - soon, we will let our desire for peace fly in the air, together with some doves. The yearning for peace rises higher than every dark cloud. Our hearts remain united and turned to Heaven, waiting for the tender twig of hope to come back, as in the days of the flood (cf. Gen 8:11). And the Middle East is no longer a war arch stretched across the continents, but an ark of peace welcoming to peoples and faiths. Beloved Middle East, the darkness of war, of power, of violence, of fanaticism, of unfair gains, of exploitation, of poverty, of inequality and of the non-recognition of rights are thinned out from you. "May peace be upon you" (Ps 122: 8) - together: "Peace be upon you" [repeat] - in you justice, God's blessing is placed on you. Amen.