In a meeting on peace with Orthodox, Jewish, Protestant, Armenians, and Muslim clerics, Francis called for cooperation to achieve the human right of peace. Religious, political and cultural leaders must work together to this end in their own domain.
Sofia (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis took part in an open-air meeting on peace with Orthodox, Jewish, Protestant, Armenian, Muslim and Catholic representatives in central Sofia, at the site of the old Roman settlement of Serdika.
In his address under a light rain, he said that making peace is a human right for which people, whatever their religion, political view or culture, must work together. Like in the meetings in Assisi, the pontiff and the representatives of other religions and traditions stood on a platform in the middle of which stood a candle with the papal log, an olive plant as the symbol of peace, and roses, symbol of Bulgaria.
After reading the Canticle of the Creatures of Saint Francis and the recitation of Psalm 122, a candle and six torches were lit to symbolise the religious confessions present. After the prayers of each religious leader, the prayer of St Francis was recited, at the end of which Francis spoke of the common commitment to prayer.
“We have prayed for peace in words inspired by Saint Francis of Assisi, who was so greatly in love with God the Creator and Father of all. A love that he showed with similar passion and deep respect for the beauty of creation and for all those whom he encountered on his pilgrim way.”
“That love also led Saint Francis to become a true peacemaker. Each of us is called to follow in his footsteps by becoming a peacemaker, an “artisan” of peace. Peace is both a gift and a task; it must be implored and worked for, received as a blessing and constantly sought as we strive daily to build a culture in which peace is respected as a fundamental right. An active peace, “fortified” against all those forms of selfishness and indifference that make us put the petty interests of a few before the inviolable dignity of each person.
“Peace requires and demands that we adopt dialogue as our path, mutual understanding as our code of conduct, and reciprocal understanding as our method and standard (cf. Document on Human Fraternity, Abu Dhabi, 4 February 2019). In this way, we can focus on what unites us, show mutual respect for our differences, and encourage one another to look to a future of opportunity and dignity, especially for future generations.
“This evening, we have gathered to pray before these lamps brought by our children. They symbolize the fire of love that burns within us and that is meant to become a beacon of mercy, love and peace wherever we find ourselves. A beacon that can cast light upon our entire world. With the fire of love, we can melt the icy chill of war and conflict. Our celebration of peace takes place on the ruins of ancient Serdika, here in Sofia, the heart of Bulgaria. From here, we can see the places of worship of the different Churches and religious Confessions: Saint Nedelya of our Orthodox brothers and sisters, Saint Joseph of us Catholics, the synagogue of our older brothers, the Jews, the mosque of our Muslim brothers and sisters and, closer to us, the Armenian church.
“For many centuries, the Bulgarians of Sofia belonging to different cultural and religious groups gathered in this place for meetings and discussions. May this symbolic place become a witness to peace. Tonight, our voices blend in expressing our ardent desire for peace. Let there be peace on earth: in our families, in our hearts, and above all in those places where so many voices have been silenced by war, stifled by indifference and ignored due to the powerful complicity of interest groups. May all work together to make this dream come true: religious, political and cultural leaders. May each of us, wherever we may be, in all that we do, be able to say: “Make me an instrument of your peace”.
“It is a plea that the dream of Pope Saint John XXIII will come true: the dream of an earth where peace is always at home. Let us share in that aspiration and, by the witness of our lives, let us say: Pacem in terris! Let there be peace on earth to all those whom the Lord loves.”