Just four days before Pope Francis travels to the birthplace of St Francis of Assisi, he met with religious, political and cultural leaders from around the world, continuing a dialogue Blessed John Paul II began with his inter-religious peace gathering in Assisi in 1986.
The Assisi gathering 27 years ago “should not and could not be an isolated event,” Pope Francis told the leaders – Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and others – who gathered at the Vatican on Sunday for a three day annual inter-religious peace meeting sponsored by the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio.
“We can never be resigned in the face of the pain of entire peoples who are hostages of war, poverty and exploitation,” Pope Francis said on Monday. “We cannot stand by, indifferent and impotent, before the drama of children, families and the elderly struck by violence. We cannot allow terrorism to imprison the hearts of a few violent people,” bringing pain and death to many.
Pope Francis told the leaders that everyone has a responsibility to contribute to peace through their prayers and their actions, but for religious leaders that obligation is absolute because “the commandment of peace is deeply inscribed in the religious traditions we represent.”
“Each one of us is called to be a peacemaker, uniting and not dividing, extinguishing hatred and not maintaining it, opening paths to dialogue and not building new walls,” the Pope said.
Peace requires a process of dialogue that is “tenacious, patient, strong and intelligent,” he said, and it refuses to give up no matter what happens.
“Dialogue helps people of different generations – who often know nothing about each other – live together,” he added. “Dialogue helps citizens of different ethnic origins and different convictions live together.”
Ending his remarks with a prayer that God would sustain all peacemakers, the pope also prayed “for peace in the world, for peace in Syria, the Middle East and in many countries around the world” and for renewed hope among those suffering from the effects of war and among young people who are worried about their futures.