Prayer and dialogue needed for peace Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Sep. 19, 2019 -- 12:00 AM

Almost every day we hear about terrorist attacks, escalating violence, and wars throughout the world.

We wonder whether peace is even possible. And if it is, how do we achieve it?

We don’t build peace by weapons, but by prayer and dialogue, Pope Francis said in a message to a religious peace meeting which opened on September 15.

Religious peace meeting

This event has taken place every year since St. John Paul II held an interreligious peace meeting in Assisi, Italy, in 1986, reported Catholic News Service. This year’s meeting is being held in Madrid, Spain.

I remember publishing articles in the Catholic Herald in 1986 after that first event in Assisi. Assisi was an appropriate site for the meeting, given the emphasis on peace given by St. Francis, who was born and lived in Assisi.

In a message read at the opening of the peace meeting sponsored by the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egigio, Pope Francis gave an example of the biblical story of Jericho.

“The biblical story of Jericho,” Pope Francis said, “reminds us that walls fall when they are stormed with prayer and not weapons, with the yearning for peace and not for conquest, when people dream of a good future for everyone.”

Prayer and dialogue

Prayer and dialogue are needed for peace, Pope Francis told the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, and other religious leaders. “Do not be afraid, because the Lord listens to the prayer of his faithful people.”

Prayers for peace “unite us all in a common sentiment without any confusion,” the pope told the religious leaders. People from different religions are praying alongside each other, but not trying to pretend they have no differences, “because what is common is the yearning for peace within the variety of religious experiences and traditions,” said the pope.

Peace on earth

Echoing this year’s meeting motto, “Peace with no borders,” Pope Francis said, “Peace is without borders. Always. Without exception. It is what St. John XXIII wished when — at a difficult time — he addressed his words to all believers and all people of goodwill, invoking ‘peace in every land’.”

Pope Francis was referring to the beautiful papal encyclical Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”), issued by Pope John XXIII (now a saint) on April 11, 1963. Pope Francis noted that Pacem in Terris was issued shortly after the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

In the past two decades “with enormous sadness, we unfortunately have seen the wasting of that gift of God which is peace,” Pope Francis said. It has been “squandered with new wars and with the construction of new walls and new barriers.”

The world does not need more walls to separate people, he said. Rather, it needs “open doors that help us to communicate, to meet one another, to cooperate in order to live together in peace, respecting diversity and weaving bonds of responsibility.”

Those are words we should all take to heart — and to our prayer for peace in our world.