VATICAN CITY CNS – In a message to religious and political leaders gathered at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, Pope Francis pleaded with ordinary citizens and governing officials to have the "audacity of peace."
"In a world where everything speeds by, only the end to war seems slow," the Pope wrote in a message read Sept. 12 at the concluding ceremony of the annual interreligious meeting for peace sponsored by the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio.
The Berlin Wall used to pass by the Brandenburg Gate and when the wall came down in 1989, Pope Francis said, it led many to "hope of a new world peace following the Cold War."
Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and others gather at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin Sept. 12, 2023, to issue public pleas for peace at the end of a three-day interreligious meeting sponsored by the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio. (CNS photo/Uta Sievers)
"Unfortunately, over the years, the promise of such a future was not built on this common hope, but on special interests and mutual mistrust," the Pope said. And "instead of tearing down walls, more walls have been erected."
"Sadly, it is often a short step from wall to trench," he said.
Pope Francis personally attended last year's meeting for peace at the Colosseum in Rome, he noted, and then, like today, Russia's invasion of Ukraine dominated discussions and prayers at the gathering.
"It is a terrible conflict with no end in sight, and which has caused death, injury, pain, exile and destruction," he told those gathered in Berlin
Pope Francis quoted from his speech at the Colosseum: "The plea for peace cannot be suppressed: it rises from the hearts of mothers; it is deeply etched on the faces of refugees, displaced families, the wounded and the dying."
"No magic formulas" exist for ending war, violence and conflict, he said. But those suffering from war in Ukraine and elsewhere around the world have a "sacred right to implore peace," and their pleas deserve to be heard.
Clearly, the Pope said, "realism is not enough, political considerations are not enough, the strategic approaches implemented so far are not enough. More is needed, because war continues."
The "audacity of peace" involves being courageous enough to try something new and it requires prophetic gestures on the part of "those who hold the fate of warring countries in their hands, of the international community, of us all," the Pope said, adding that it is "not impossible for politicians, leaders or diplomats."
The audacity of peace means believers of all faiths must pray intensely and must "give expression to the cries of mothers and fathers, to the heartbreak of the fallen and to the futility of destruction, and so denounce the madness of war."
"Let us not be afraid to become beggars for peace," Pope Francis wrote.
"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," he wrote. "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