Francis’ speech at the opening and plenary session of the religious leaders summit Sept. 14 was organized around four global challenges: the COVID-19 pandemic, peace, fraternal acceptance, and care for our common home.
He said in the wake of the pandemic, we are called to care for others, beginning with the poor and needy, “who suffered most from the pandemic, which so forcefully brought out the injustice of global inequalities and imbalances.”
“As long as inequality and injustice continue to proliferate, there will be no end to viruses even worse than COVID: the viruses of hatred, violence, and terrorism,” he said.
Francis urged his fellow religious leaders to continue to promote peace. “A leap forward is required, and it needs to come from us,” he said.
“If the Creator, to whom we have devoted our lives, is the author of human life, how can we, who call ourselves believers, consent to the destruction of that life? And how can we imagine that the men and women of our time, many of whom live as if God did not exist, can be inspired to engage in respectful and responsible dialogue if the great religions, which are the soul of so many cultures and traditions, are not themselves actively committed to peace?” he said.
“God is peace,” Pope Francis underlined. “He guides us always in the way of peace, never that of war.”
“Let us commit ourselves, then, even more to insisting on the need for resolving conflicts not by the inconclusive means of power, with arms and threats, but by the only means blessed by heaven and worthy of man: encounter, dialogue, and patient negotiations, which make progress especially when they take into consideration the young and future generations,” he said.
“For the young embody the hope that peace will come about, not as the fragile outcome of painstaking negotiations, but as the fruit of persevering commitment to an education that can support their aspirations for development and a serene future.”