“As Christians, we are convinced that the most precious contribution we can make to the cause of peace is that of prayer” Benedict XVI said in the homily he gave in preparation for Thursday's day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace in Assisi. The customary general audience held on Wednesdays was replaced by a liturgy.
The Pope noted that Jesus “is the king of peace, thanks to the power of God, which is the power of good, the power of love. He is a king who causes the chariots and charioteers of battle to disappear, who will shatter the bows of war; He is a king who will bring peace to fulfilment on the Cross by joining heaven and earth, and by throwing a bridge of brotherhood between all peoples.”
“The Prophet Zechariah announces that this humble, peaceful king will have dominion "from sea to sea, from the River to the ends of the earth" (Zechariah 9:10). The reign inaugurated by Christ has universal dimensions. The horizons of this poor and gentle king are neither a territory nor a state, but rather the very ends of the earth; transcending every barrier of race, language and culture, He creates communion; He creates unity. “
“And where do we see this announcement fulfilled today?” the Holy Father asked,” The prophecy of Zechariah shines with splendor in the great nets of the Eucharistic communities that extend over all the earth. These form a great mosaic of communities in which this gentle and peaceful king's sacrifice of love is made present; they form a multitude of "islands of peace" that radiate peace.”
“But how may we build this kingdom of peace, of which Christ is king? “he continued asking, the answer is the command that He leaves to His Apostles, and through them, to us all "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations … and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:19). Like Jesus, the messengers of peace in His kingdom must take to the road, they must respond to His invitation.” The Pope remembered also Jesus´s words about his disciples being as lambs among wolves and quoted St. John Chrysostom, in one of his Homilies, who comments: "As long as we are lambs we will conquer; even if we are surrounded by many wolves, we will succeed in overcoming them. But if we become wolves, we will be defeated, because we will be deprived of the help of the Shepherd" (Homily 33, 1: PG 57,389).
“Jesus does not conquer the world with the strength of armies, but with the strength of the Cross, which is victory's true guarantee.”
To extend Christ's kingdom of peace means being ready to suffer and to lose one's life in martyrdom, “so that good, love and peace may triumph in the world.”
“As Christians we want to invoke from God the gift of peace; we want to ask Him to make us instruments of His peace in a world torn by hatred, division, egoism and war; we want to ask Him that tomorrow's meeting in Assisi foster dialogue between people of different religious affiliations and that it carry with it a ray of light capable of enlightening the minds and hearts of all people, so that resentment may give way to forgiveness, division to reconciliation, hatred to love, violence to meekness, and that peace may reign in the world”. VATICAN CITY, OCT. 26, 2011
The Pope spoke about the new faces of violence and discord at the Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World. twenty-five years have passed since Blessed Pope John Paul II first invited representatives of the world's religions to Assisi to pray for peace, he said, at that time the great threat to world peace came from the division of the earth into two mutually opposed blocs. A conspicuous symbol of this division was the Berlin Wall. In 1989, three years after Assisi, the wall came down, without bloodshed.
“Unfortunately”, he said, “we cannot say that freedom and peace have characterized the situation ever since. Even if there is no threat of a great war hanging over us at present, nevertheless the world is unfortunately full of discord”.
He spoke about two types of the new forms of violence. Firstly there is terrorism, for which in place of a great war there are targeted attacks intended to strike the opponent destructively at key points. “In the eyes of the perpetrators, the overriding goal of damage to the enemy justifies any form of cruelty”. This is a phenomenon in which religion "does not serve peace," but is "used as justification for violence."
Another religiously-motivated violence is when force is used by the defenders of one religion against others. But this, the Pope affirmed, "is not the true nature of religion. It is the antithesis of religion and contributes to its destruction.
Another face of violence and discord is the worship of mammon, possessions and power in which it is no longer man who counts but only personal advantage and the desire for happiness degenerates, for example, into an unbridled, inhuman craving, such as appears in the different forms of drug dependency. There are the powerful who trade in drugs and then the many who are seduced and destroyed by them, physically and spiritually. “Force comes to be taken for granted and in parts of the world it threatens to destroy our young people. Because force is taken for granted, peace is destroyed and man destroys himself in this peace vacuum.”
The Pope said that in the first type there is a way of understanding and using religion so that it becomes a source of violence, and he noted that the rightly lived relationship of man to God is a force for peace. In this context he referred to the need for dialogue and he spoke of the constant need for purification of lived religion.
On the other type, he said, it is the denial of God which corrupts man, robs him of his criteria and leads him to violence.
In addition to these two phenomena of religion and anti-religion, the Pope affirmed, a further basic orientation is found in the growing world of agnosticism: people to whom the gift of faith has not been given, but who are nevertheless on the lookout for truth, searching for God.
Such people do not simply assert: "There is no God". They suffer from his absence and yet are inwardly making their way towards him, inasmuch as they seek truth and goodness. They are "pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace".
“I have consciously invited delegates of this third group to our meeting in Assisi, which does not simply bring together representatives of religious institutions. Rather it is a case of being together on a journey towards truth, a case of taking a decisive stand for human dignity and a case of common engagement for peace against every form of destructive force”
Finally the Pope emphasized that the Catholic Church will not let up in her commitment for peace in the world. ASSISI, Italy, OCT. 27, 2011
Other papal messages and activities
The Holy Father asked the faithful to unite themselves with hjm in prayer for the people of Turquey who have lost their lives and to the many persons so harshly tried by the earthquake. He asked the Almighty that He may give support to all those who are committed to the work of providing aid. Vatican City. OCT. 26, 2011
The minister-general of the Franciscans welcomed the Pope to Assisi. Father José Rodríguez Carballo welcomed and thanked Benedict XVI and told him that the Friars Minor pray for his intentions and that this day in Assisi in communion with the Successor of Peter will bear abundant fruit on the path of peace. ASSISI, Italy, OCT. 26, 2011
Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World, held in Assisi, The Pontiff and members of the various delegations left the Vatican by train at 8 a.m. Thursday, reaching Assisi at 9:45 a.m. where they were greeted by the civil and religious authorities in front of the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli. As the ceremony unfolded inside the basilica, the large numbers of faithful present were able to follow events on giant screens set up in the square outside.
At the end the Holy Father thanked those who made possible the encounter. “Meetings of this sort are necessarily exceptional and infrequent”, he recognized, “yet they are a vivid expression of the fact that every day, throughout our world, people of different religious traditions live and work together in harmony. It is surely significant for the cause of peace that so many men and women, inspired by their deepest convictions, are committed to working for the good of the human family.”
We will “continue to meet, we will continue to be united in this journey, in dialogue, in the daily building of peace and in our commitment to a better world, a world in which every man and woman and every people can live in accordance with their own legitimate aspirations.” He said. ASSISI, Italy, OCT. 28, 2011
A prayer for the Holy Father
Christ Jesus, King and Lord of the Church, in your presence I renew my unconditional loyalty to your Vicar on earth, the Pope. In him you have chosen to show us the safe and sure path that we must follow in the midst of confusion, uneasiness, and unrest. I firmly believe that through him you govern, teach, and sanctify us; with him as our shepherd, we form the true Church: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Grant me the grace to love, live, and spread faithfully our Holy Father’s teachings. Watch over his life, enlighten his mind, strengthen his spirit, defend him from calumny and evil. Calm the erosive winds of infidelity and disobedience. Hear our prayer and keep your Church united around him, firm in its belief and action, that it may truly be the instrument of your redemption. Amen.
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