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File photo of Pope Francis File photo of Pope Francis  (Vatican Media)

Pope to Rimini Meeting: Social friendship an antidote to war and conflict

Pope Francis encourages participants in the 44th Meeting of Friendship Among Peoples to approach others like Jesus and help them encounter God, especially in the midst of trying times.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Pope Francis encouraged the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples, frequently referred to as the "Rimini Meeting", in a message released on Friday and signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.

Every year since 1980, the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples has taken place in the northern Italian sea town of Rimini in late August. This year's theme is "Human existence is an inexhaustible friendship."

The Rimini meeting is an annual event, organized by the Communion and Liberation Movement, which draws large numbers of the faithful, who are treated to various high-level individuals discussing key issues. It also offers various pavilions and activities for individuals, families, and children.

Amid war and divisions

Pope Francis' message for this year's event began with a solemn acknowledgement of the wars plaguing the world.

The Pope acknowledged that the Rimini meeting is being held at a time when "war and divisions sow resentment and fear in hearts, and others who are different are often perceived as rivals."

"Global and pervasive communication," he said, "causes this widespread attitude to become a mentality, differences to appear as symptoms of hostility and a kind of epidemic of enmity to occur."

In this context, he said, the theme of the Rimini meeting appears courageous, "because it clearly goes against the trend, in a time marked by individualism and indifference, which generate loneliness and many forms of discarding others." 

No one can be saved alone

"It is impossible to escape the situation" by one's own strength, noted the Pope.

“Humanity has always experienced this: no one can be saved alone.”

That is why, at a precise moment in history, the Pope expressed, God took the initiative to send His Son, who presented Himself as a friend. "The Spirit of the Risen Christ broke the loneliness by giving man His friendship, as pure grace," he said.

Faithful friends reflect Lord's affection

Addressing young people, the Holy Father extolled the value of true friendship, which enlarges the heart.

"Faithful friends," the Pope reflected, "are a reflection of the Lord's affection, His consolation and His loving presence."

The Pope also recalled that the attitude of openness to the other as a brother or sister is one of the hallmarks of his pontificate and magisterium.

Pointing to his encyclical Fratelli tutti, the Pope highlighted the importance of social friendship, and upheld it as a solution "even in the most dramatic situations - even in the face of war - 'when it is genuine [...] within a society it is a condition of possibility for true universal openness.'"

We cannot be deaf as cries rise to God

The law of friendship, the Pope's message continued, was laid down by Jesus when he said there is no greater love than one laying down his life for his friends.

Pope Francis therefore invited "Christians and all men and women of good will not to remain deaf before the cry that rises up to God from this world of ours."

"Speeches are not enough, what is needed are rather concrete gestures and shared choices that build a culture of peace where each one of us lives," he continued, calling for efforts to be made at a level of friendship among people different from one another.

Promote culture of encounter

Pope Francis expressed his hope that the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples will continue to promote a culture of encounter, which is open to all and in which no one is excluded.

“May each of the participants learn a little to approach others in the manner of Jesus, who always stretches out His hand, always seeks to lift, to make people heal, to make them happy, to make them encounter God.”

Expressing his desire that the encounter promote social friendship, the Pope extended his Apostolic Blessing upon everyone who is taking part inthe Rimini meeting.

18 August 2023, 11:00