File photo of Pope Francis partaking in the Community of Sant'Egidio's Prayer for Peace encounter in Rome File photo of Pope Francis partaking in the Community of Sant'Egidio's Prayer for Peace encounter in Rome 

Pope encourages Community of Sant'Egidio to persist in pursuing peace

Pope Francis calls for not losing hope and persisting in prayer to combat war and conflict, especially in Ukraine, in a message he sent to the annual international meeting of the Community of Sant'Egidio. This year's encounter in the “Spirit of Assisi” takes place in Berlin, Germany, from 10-12 September on the theme “The Audacity of Peace.”

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

"We cannot resign ourselves to the tragedies and war around us, but must believe there is hope through an audacity of peace."

Pope Francis gave this encouragement in the message he sent to the International Meeting promoted by the Community of Sant’Egidio in the “Spirit of Assisi.” The gathering is focusing on the theme “The Audacity of Peace” with participants meeting in Berlin, Germany, from 10 to 12 September 2023.

Pope Francis has participated often in the encounter, especially in recent years as it was held at Rome's Colosseum or the Campidoglio with a modified format due to the pandemic. The Holy Father has been collaborated with the Community of Sant'Egidio in numerous initiatives in Rome and abroad since the start of his pontificate.

The Holy Father recalled their encounter among Christian leaders, leaders of world religions, and civil authorities takes place this year in the German capital, near the Brandenburg Gate, and "faithfully continues the pilgrimage of prayer and dialogue initiated by Saint John Paul II in Assisi in 1986."

The Pope called the location of their meeting particularly evocative, given it takes place precisely where the wall came down that separated the two Germanies and divided the two worlds of Western and Eastern Europe. The fall of the wall, the Pope observed, opened up new horizons, such as freedom for peoples, the reunification of families, and hope of a new world peace following the Cold War.

He lamented however that over the years, the promise of such a future was not built on this common hope, but on "special interests" and "mutual mistrust." 

War ravages on

Today, the Pope observed, war still ravages too many parts of the world.

"I am thinking of several areas in Africa and the Middle East, but also of many other regions of the planet, including Europe, which is enduring a war in Ukraine," the Pope said, calling it "a terrible conflict with no end in sight," which "has caused death, injury, pain, exile, and destruction."

Pope Francis recalled being at the Community's encounter last year at Rome's iconic Colosseum to pray for peace, acknowledging that "we listened to the cry of a peace that has been sullied and trampled upon."

"We cannot resign ourselves to this scenario," the Pope said, insisting, "Something more is needed. We need the 'audacity of peace,' which is at the heart of your meeting."

“We cannot resign ourselves to this scenario. Something more is needed...”

"Realism is not enough, political considerations are not enough, the strategic approaches implemented so far are not enough. More is needed, because war continues," he argued, appealing for this "audacity of peace."

Audacity of peace

The audacity of peace, he explained, is "the prophecy required of those who hold the fate of warring countries in their hands, of the international community, of us all." 

This audacity, the Holy Father continued, "challenges believers in a particular way to transform it into prayer, to invoke from heaven what seems impossible on earth."

“The audacity of peace challenges believers in a particular way to transform it into prayer, to invoke from heaven what seems impossible on earth.”

Insistent prayer, he said, is the first kind of audacity required. "In the Gospel," the Pope emphasized, "Christ points out the 'need to pray always and not to lose heart', saying: 'Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.'" 

The Pope made a plea to become "beggars for peace," together with all brothers and sisters of other religions, and all those "who do not resign themselves to the inevitability of conflict."

Praying without losing heart

Pope Francis told the encounter's participants that he joins them in their prayer for an end to war, and thanked them from the bottom of his heart for all they do. "It is indeed necessary to press forward in order to surmount the wall of the impossible, constructed on the apparently irrefutable reasoning arising from the memory of such great sorrow and so many wounds suffered in the past," he said.

He acknowledged that this is difficult, but not impossible.

"It is not impossible for believers, who live the audacity of a hopeful prayer," he stated, "but it must not be impossible for politicians, leaders or diplomats either," he added, inviting, "Let us continue to pray for peace without losing heart, to knock with a humble and insistent spirit at the ever-open door of God’s heart and at the doors of humankind."

Pope Francis concluded by exhorting, "Let us ask that ways to peace be opened, especially for beloved and war-torn Ukraine."

“Let us trust that the Lord always hears the anguished cry of His children.”

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12 September 2023, 18:11