During his morning homily, Pope Francis spoke to religious leaders of various faith traditions, saying that fostering peace is a responsibility which can only be attained through dialogue.
Present at the Pope’s Sept. 30 Mass in the Santa Marta guesthouse of the Vatican were the participants of the International Meeting for Peace in the spirit of Assisi, organized by the Rome-based Community of Saint Egidio.
The Sept. 29 - Oct. 1 conference meets this year under the theme “The Courage to Hope,” and is composed of religious leaders of all denominations, as well as men and women who are committed to building peace in the world.
Pope Francis lauded the community for following in the steps of Bl. John Paul II, who convened the historic meeting in Assisi in 1986, where he invited the religious leaders of different Churches to pray together for peace.
The Holy Father reflected that in recent months, the “spirit” which sparked the 1986 meeting is desperately needed, saying that “we must never resign ourselves to the pain of entire peoples who are hostages of war, poverty, exploitation.”
The pontiff went on to emphasize how no act of violence can be justified by religion, regardless of its manifestation – urging that “all forms of religiously motivated violence must be stamped out,” and warning that this violence is the product of a society “based on a ‘no’ to God.”
Reminding those present how much they are able to accomplish as leaders of different religions, he stressed that “Peace is everyone's responsibility. Praying for peace, working for peace!"
“A religious leader is always a man of peace.”
Turning then to the conference’s theme this year, Pope Francis suggested that the “Courage to Hope” is a “courage of dialogue which gives hope.”
“In the world, in society,” he said, “there is little peace also because there is no dialogue; it is hard to look beyond the narrow horizon of one’s own interests and be open to a true and sincere exchange.”
Peace, the Pope said according to Vatican Radio, needs a dialogue that is tenacious, patient, strong and intelligent, and that if these elements are involved, dialogue becomes the way of peace because it encourages understanding and harmony.
The pontiff concluded his reflections by urging the meeting’s attendees to be “partners in dialogue,” instead of intermediaries.
“Intermediaries,” he said, “seek to grant discounts to all parties in order to obtain gains for themselves. Mediators are the ones who keep nothing for themselves, but expend themselves generously, in the knowledge that the only true gain is that of peace.”
In his final remarks, Pope Francis lauded the St. Egidio community for their work, insisting that legacy of the first Assisi meeting is still being nurtured through their efforts, showing that dialogue and prayer are intimately linked.
“Dialogue and prayer grow or perish together.”
He encouraged all in attendance to continue praying for peace in the world, especially in Syria and the Middle East, praying “May this courage of peace give the courage of hope to the world, to all those who suffer in war, to young people who look with concern to their future.”