For the occasion, the diocese of Assisi gave Pope Francis a 112-page book covering the 30-year "Story of Assisi" with commentary from the key speakers of each major encounter since the launch of the event in 1986. It also includes the testimonies of two victims of war who share their personal experience.
After spending nearly an hour greeting participants from different religions after his arrival, Pope Francis met individually with leaders of several major religions, including Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople; His Holiness Ignatius Ephraim II, Syriac-Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; His Grace Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of the Church of England and Great Rabbi of Israel David Rosen.
The Pope then had lunch with 12 refugees who fled war in various countries around the world before leading Christians in a moment of ecumenical prayer in the lower part of the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, during which all countries at war were named, and a candle lit for each one.
Pope Francis spoke after hearing brief addresses from both Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Welby, who made a distinction between the human economy of profit and the economy of God.
"In God's economy, we are the poorest of the poor…because we think ourselves rich, because we have money," the archbishop said, but stressed that our human wealth is like "a children's game," and that "we are only truly rich when we receive mercy from God."
"Our imaginary economy not only deceives us…it drains our energies in the pursuit of illusions," he said, noting that God, on the other hand, "offers us wealth that is real" through his mercy, which replaces the illusion of our wealth with "the reality of peace and love, because when we receive mercy and peace we become the bearers of love and peace."
In his brief speech, Bartholomew said that today Christians are called to give "a testimony of communion."
The patriarch stressed that communion among Christians today is commonly lived out as "communion which is martyrdom."
"We are therefore thirsty, we must be thirsty…for thirst is the symbol of our need and yearning," he said, and encouraged participants to turn to the other and let "a listening silence…permeate us," because "there can be no conversion without listening."
In his own reflection, Francis himself turned to the gathering's theme, explaining that while Jesus certainly thirsts for water while hanging on the Cross, above all he thirsts "for love, that element no less essential for living."
"He thirsts to give us the living waters of his love, but also to receive our love," Francis said, and pointed to the reality that "Love is not loved," which, according to some, is what most upset the Pope's namesake, St. Francis of Assisi.
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St. Francis "was not ashamed to cry out and grieve loudly" for love of the suffering Lord, the Pope said, adding that this same reality must perpetually be in the hearts of all as we contemplate Christ Crucified, "who thirsts for love."
He noted how St. Teresa of Calcutta, whom he canonized Sept. 4, sought to quench this thirst through service to the poorest of the poor. The Lord's thirst is quenched by our compassionate love, Francis said, adding that Christ "is consoled when, in his name, we bend down to another's suffering."
Pointing to Jesus' words in the Gospel "as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me," Pope Francis said they challenge us, seeking "a place in our heart and a response that involves our whole life."
As Christians, we are called to reflect on the mystery of "Love not loved," and to pour out mercy onto the world.
"On the cross, the tree of life, evil was transformed into good," Francis said, explaining that as disciples of the Crucified Lord, we too "are called to be 'trees of life' that absorb the contamination of indifference and restore the pure air of love to the world."
After his reflection, Pope Francis and other major leaders of different forms of Christianity gathered alongside him closed their liturgy before heading to the concluding ceremony, during which representatives from all the major religions present issued a joint appeal for peace.