Pope Francis presided over the closing ceremony of the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi on Tuesday 20 September. The ceremony followed an early afternoon of prayer – not in common, but separately, according to religious tradition.
Thirst for peace: religions and cultures in dialogue was the theme of this 30th anniversary celebration of the World Day, which Pope St. John Paul II first convoked in the city of St. Francis in 1986.
“We have come to Assisi as pilgrims in search of peace,” said Pope Francis to the gathering of more than 400 leaders from dozens of different traditions of faith and religion. “We carry within us and place before God the hopes and sorrows of many persons and peoples: we thirst for peace; we desire to witness to peace.”
“[A]bove all,” said Pope Francis, “we need to pray for peace, because peace is God’s gift, and it lies with us to plead for it, embrace it, and build it every day with God’s help.”
Before the closing ceremony, the Holy Father delivered a meditation on peace to a gathering of leaders from various Christian Churches and ecclesial communities in the Lower Basilica of St. Francis.
“Before Christ Crucified, ‘the power and wisdom of God’ (1 Cor 1:24), we Christians are called to contemplate the mystery of Love not loved and to pour out mercy upon the world,” Pope Francis told the ecumenical gathering of Christian leaders come together to hear his meditation in the lower basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, ahead of the closing ceremony.
“On the Cross, the tree of life,” continued Pope Francis, “evil was transformed into good; we too, as disciples of the Crucified One, are called to be ‘trees of life’ that absorb the contamination of indifference and restore the pure air of love to the world. From the side of Christ on the Cross water flowed, that symbol of the Spirit who gives life (cf. Jn 19:34); so that from us, his faithful, compassion may flow forth for all who thirst today.”
Much has changed in the three decades that have passed since Pope St. John Paul II held the first event: the Cold War has ended, while the shadow of international terrorism has grown and spread, and our failure to exercise good stewardship over creation has created new challenges to peace.
The “spirit of Assisi” however, remains unchanged, and each of us has a part to play in realizing the hope for peace that animates this event.
“Here, thirty years ago,” recalled Pope Francis in concluding his remarks, “Pope John Paul II said: ‘Peace is a workshop, open to all and not just to specialists, savants and strategists. Peace is a universal responsibility.’ Let us assume this responsibility, reaffirming today our ‘yes’ to being, together, builders of the peace that God wishes for us and for which humanity thirsts.”