MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
FOR THE XXXIII INTERNATIONAL PRAYER MEETING FOR PEACE
[Madrid, 15-17 September 2019]
To the Venerable Brother
Cardinal CARLOS OSORO SIERRA
Archbishop of Madrid
and to the participants in the Prayer Meeting for Peace
"Peace without borders"
I greet with joy and gratitude Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra, Archbishop of Madrid, and all of you, representatives of the Churches and Christian communities and of world religions gathered in Madrid for the XXXIII Prayer Meeting for Peace, organized jointly by the Community of Sant'Egidio and from the Archdiocese of Madrid. It is a source of joy to see that this pilgrimage of peace, begun following the World Day of Prayer for Peace, convened in Assisi in October 1986 by St. John Paul II, has never stopped but continues and grows in number of participants and for the fruits of good he brings. It is a pilgrimage that has traveled peoples and cities to witness everywhere the strength of that "spirit of Assisi" which is prayer to God and promotion of peace among peoples.
This year this itinerary stops in Madrid, to reflect on the theme "Peace without borders". The mind goes thirty years ago when, in the heart of Europe, the Berlin Wall fell and a lacerating division of the European continent that caused so much suffering ended. From Berlin to the whole of Eastern Europe from that day new hopes of peace were ignited that spread all over the world. To encourage that collapse contributed - we are convinced - the prayer for peace of so many sons and daughters of God. Moreover, the biblical story of Jericho reminds us that the walls fall when they are "besieged" with prayer and not with weapons , with yearnings for peace and not for conquest, when we dream of a good future for all. This is why it is always necessary to pray and dialogue in the perspective of peace: the fruits will come! We are not afraid, because the Lord hears the prayer of his faithful people.
In these first two decades of the twenty-first century we have unfortunately witnessed, with great sadness, the waste of that gift of God which is peace, squandered with new wars and with the construction of new walls and new barriers. After all, we know that peace must be continually increased from generation to generation with dialogue, meetings and negotiations. It is foolish, in the perspective of the good of peoples and the world, to close spaces, separate peoples, or rather to oppose one another, to deny hospitality to those in need and to their families. In this way the world is "broken up", using the same violence with which the environment is ruined and the common home is damaged, which instead asks for love, care, respect, just as humanity invokes peace and fraternity. The common house does not support walls that separate and, even less, that contrast those who live there. Instead, it needs open doors that help to communicate, to meet, to cooperate in order to live together in peace, respecting diversity and tightening responsibilities. Peace is like a home from the many dwellings we are all called to inhabit. Peace is without borders. Always, without exception. St. John XXIII hoped for this when - in a difficult time - he wished to address his word to all believers and men of good will by invoking "peace in all lands".
Distinguished representatives of the Churches and Christian communities and of the great world Religions, with this greeting of mine, I wish to tell you that I am close to you in these days and that together with you I invoke peace from the One who alone can give it. In the tradition of these International Prayer Meetings for Peace - which I also attended in Assisi in 2016 - the prayer that rises to God occupies the main and decisive place. It unites us all, in a common feeling, without any confusion. Close, but not confused! Because the yearning for peace is common, in the variety of religious experiences and traditions.
We are in fact aware, as believers, that prayer is at the root of peace. Whoever practices it is a friend of God, as was Abraham, a model of a man of faith and hope. The prayer for peace, in this time marked by too many conflicts and violence, unites all of us even more, beyond the differences, in the common commitment to a more fraternal world. We know well that fraternity among believers, as well as a barrier to enmities and wars, is the leaven of fraternity among peoples. It is in this horizon that in February last year, in Abu Dhabi, together with the Great Imam of Al-Azhar, I signed the "Document on Human Brotherhood for World Peace and Common Living". It is an important step on the path to world peace. Together we said that "religions never incite war and do not urge feelings of hatred, hostility, extremism, nor invite violence or bloodshed". I wish to entrust the intentions of that Document to all of you who participate in this Prayer Meeting for Peace. The spirit of Assisi, 800 years after the meeting of St. Francis with the Sultan, also inspired our work that led to the Abu Dhabi act.
What we are experiencing is a grave moment for the world. We must all hold on - I would like to say with one heart and one voice - to shout that peace is without borders, without borders. A cry that rises from our heart. It is there, in fact, from the hearts, that we must eradicate the frontiers that divide and contrast. And it is in hearts that feelings of peace and fraternity should be sown.
Distinguished representatives of the Christian Churches and Communities and of the great world Religions, men and women of good will who participate in this Meeting, the great task of peace is entrusted also to our hands. The God of peace gives us abundance of wisdom, boldness, generosity and perseverance.
From the Vatican, 13 September 2019