Historian, Founder of the Community of Sant'Egidio
Distinguished representatives of the Christian Churches and great World Religions,
During these days we exchanged thoughts, concerns, dreams, and shared each other’s purposes. Together with the religious leaders – whom I thank – many people from Catalonia and friends from all over Europe joined us with their questions and their insightful presence. Many friends of the Community of Sant’Egidio worked on a voluntary basis and with passion to make these days come true. So did the Archdiocese of Barcelona, and Cardinal Sistach, with a warm sense of hospitality, joined by the other Bishops of Catalonia. Nor can I forget the generous institutions of this City and of Catalonia.
Barcelona has become the throbbing heart of dialogue. We have seen how this meets the vocation of the city. Dialogue is not a rhetorical word. Here it was concreteness. Not only matter is concrete. Sometimes the Spirit is much more concrete: like a current it animates history. We have been practicing the patience and efforts dialogue requires, and enjoyed its satisfactions. Dialogue stems from recognizing the other as a member of my own family, even though he or she may look very different from me under a number of features. I do not want to get rid of him, or kill him, because he is familiar to me. I would rather talk with him and explore a common understanding. These days were a workshop of dialogue embracing religions, continents, peoples, men and women, rising from the conviction that we are a family. Is this a utopia? No, it is not. It is great hope, actually a vast vision.
These days reinforce the belief that through dialogue it is possible to live together. The international institutions are not enough, unless we invigorate them with a spirit of family embracing peoples and individuals. In the hearts of cities and peoples, the sense of community, of a common destiny, is extinguished. Perhaps the spirit of a union of peoples, such as in Europe, was never born. Maybe even a widespread sense of common destiny, enfolding the whole world, was never born. We believe that religions can invigorate the conscience of the world as a common home of peoples, so that, speaking of God, they may look beyond the arrogance of today and the shimmering of material things. Whoever believes in God understands that the path of all creatures is that of one single and great people walking towards its eternal destiny. Dear friends, an intense question rises and is addressed to religions. It is a request for orientation, coming from lives focusing on themselves. Many of our societies are asking for a purpose to live for. Many political crises are explained by the absence of a mission to live for. Yes, their explanation lies in the sense of emptiness.
Peace, the object of the longing and a great good for those who are at war, seems of little value to those who already enjoy it, like us Europeans. But living in peace is a crucial resource to accomplish a mission. Peace is a richness to be invested in a word marked by too many wars, conflicts, and poverty. Peace must not rot in a world without dreams or visions. Peace must not rot in the chests of the avaricious and the short-sighted. We have seen peace wasted in the first decade of this new century, in many forms of violence, brutal terrorism, wars, in the weak efforts made to tackle poverty. Now, in the heart of the 21st century, we need to begin a new decade of peace, of more radical understanding among peoples, of commitment to reduce poverty. In order to accomplish such an ambitious programme, well prepared agendas are not enough; we need spirit, which generates hope.
We come from these days in Barcelona with great hope: we are more and more convinced that dialogue is the golden tool to build a better world, to give peace, to live in peace. We are hopeful that with the weak strength of faith, our century may be guided to a time of peace: peace in the life of nations, peace between peoples, and peace in the hearts of human beings.