The 25th International Meeting of Prayer for Peace is about to end. These three days have been intense for our City, for religions, for religious denominations in our City of Barcelona and in other cities of Catalonia. We have been thinking, living, talking and praying together. It is now time to say farewell, it is time for each of us to commit ourselves and let the spirit of Assisi, the spirit of this meeting, blow in our daily lives.
As the Archbishop of this City and of the Diocese of Barcelona, I now wish to thank God and you all, dear friends, who have come here. I thank the Representatives of the world religions and denominations, of many cultures and nations, who have given life, ideas and insight for our prayer to this 25th Meeting in Barcelona. Thank you for coming! Thank you for celebrating with us the silver jubilee of this event, which Pope Benedict XVI defined as “a commendable initiative” in the message he sent. We are all elevating our prayers this afternoon, and in doing so we beg to God, particularly in this moment – as our beloved Pope Benedict XVI said – “to attain abundant fruits and pour upon everyone God’s plentiful blessings”.
I wish to thank the Community of Sant’Egidio and its founder, Andrea Riccardi, who once again has shown his respect and understanding of our land and its reality, encouraging us to be faithful to the best part of our spiritual tradition. I thank also to its President and his collaborators from Rome and from many other countries – and particularly the members of the Community of Sant’Egidio of Barcelona, of Catalonia and the rest of Spain – who have been working for long months and contributed to the success of this meeting that is now about to end.
Now these days are coming to an end; we have been engaged in dialogue in a spirit of mutual respect and sincere friendship. We have firmly committed ourselves to become authors, day by day, of the so-called “spirit of Assisi”. We must continue the pilgrimage of peace and reconciliation that John Paul II – prophetically inspired, in my opinion – started in Assisi in 1986 and that is now 25 years old.
The 25 meetings organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio, with the collaboration of many religious and lay representatives, prove that the torch lit in Assisi will not be extinguished. It passes over from one hand to the other, and its vocation is to spread more and more on all roads, in all religions and nations of the world.
Let us all remember the title of this Meeting, “Living Together in a Time of Crisis, Family of Peoples, Family of God”, as a commitment.
And let us remember the words of the Pope in the message he sent to us: “In this difficult time of crisis and conflict, worsened by the increasing extent of the globalization, religions are called to accomplish their special vocation of service to peace and coexistence”.
We must all believe in this path. We must not be discouraged if we fail to reach all the goals we set ourselves. What is important is that the path we choose is good and can lead us to build a more peaceful world, and therefore a world more human and a more just.
A few days after the last meeting in Barcelona in September 2001, the well-known dramatic events took place. The first decade of the 21st century was a decade of tensions and fears, as we were reminded of during these days.
At the climax of our meeting in Barcelona, we pray that the second decade of the new century may be a decade when the ideals of coexistence and dialogue are recovered as reasonable means of solving conflicts.
The dilemma our world is facing is evident, and it has also been clearly stated during these days. Either we live together or we shall wage war. We have chosen to live together. This is the message of our meeting.
We need to learn the lessons of the past decade. As Professor Andrea Riccardi said in his opening speech, “The myth that the global market would have providentially led to peace and world unity was shattered, as well as the myth that war can bring to peace”. Unfortunately, however, many people still practice violence and terrorism. And, as Professor Riccardi continues, “What worries me the most is that the hope to build a more human world is worn out. Hope is the driving force of every step ahead of humankind in every generation. It motivates the patience that is necessary to accomplish a different world. And different means first of all a world of peace, because war is the most inhuman aspect of the history of peoples”.
To search for peace, to promote dialogue and respect for diversity, is not as naïve as it may seem. It is profound wisdom, which is found in the most profound and authentic core of every religious tradition.
As it was said in these days in Barcelona, religions can and must offer precious paths to build a peaceful humanity, because they lay their trust in the God of peace and speak to the hearts of men and women.
Dear friends gathered in Barcelona in these days, let me divert your attention for a moment to give you a spiritual memory of our tradition and a sign of our city in the “spirit of Assisi”.
It is something I would define as “a small pearl of our history”, an institution that I believe may be ascribed to the spirit of Assisi in its most authentic form.
In our religious history of Catalonia, an important place is given to the so-called Abbot Oliba, a Benedictine who lived in the last decades of the 9th century and the early 10th century. No less than a millennium separates us from him. But Abbot Oliba, who is considered the founder of the famous monastery of Montserrat, excelled especially as peacemaker in conflicts – so frequent in his times – between the nobles and knights of the country. This was embodied in a form of peacemaking called the "Truce of God", or "Peace and Truce".
This institution, inspired by the Abbot and Bishop Oliba in 1022, was proclaimed in Toluges in 1027. Then it expanded in following synods of our land during the years 1030 and 1033. Having passed the borders of our Country, it was welcomed by several European countries, while the man who inspired it was still alive.
As one of our historians says, “the provisions of the Benedictine Abbot Oliba were followed and copied elsewhere and they became common to the majority of Christianity, starting from 1041 and 1054”.
What was “Peace and Truce”? It was a pacifying practice: during the most important periods of the Liturgical Year, particularly Lent and Easter, it was forbidden to nobles and knights to wage war, under threat of excommunication, in order to avoid deaths and disasters of all kinds, such as the burning and damaging of crops, leading the population, especially the poorest sectors of society, to hunger and misery.
In the name of God, this ancestor of ours became a builder of peace, “defensor civitatis”, a defender of the city, of the weak, of the poor. Today too, this is our path, dear friends of the 25th Meeting for Peace.
The peacemaking efforts of the Bishop and Abbot Oliba were spiritually grounded. Peace is the name of God, who is a “God of peace”.
Today we want to lift our prayer for peace in the whole world and for the uprooting of terrorism in our country and all countries.
And now I wish to refer to a monument, which is a sign much loved in our city and more and more all over the world, which I dare also include – I hope with everyone’s consent – in the spirit of Assisi. I refer to the temple of the Sagrada Familia, the work of a brilliant architect and authentic and sincere believer, Antoni Gaudi.
We wish the Sagrada Familia to be more and more a sign of peace, a sign of what the object of our commitment in these days: to make the whole of humankind something similar to what family is in the life of all peoples. Therefore, from Barcelona, we wish to offer everyone this beautiful monument, as an expression of the words which inspired our meeting: Family of Peoples, Family of God. In God’s plan we are called to live in a spirit of family, because the family of God is all humanity, because it is undeniable that we are all members of the one human family.
This meaning of our great religious monument is not mere opportunism. Scholars tell us that the spirit that inspired and moved the creative talent of Gaudi was a Franciscan spirit, which is profoundly rooted in the land of Catalonia. Precisely, allow me to say, the temple – soon to be Basilica – of the Sagrada Familia is itself an expression of the spirit of Assisi.
Our Country is preparing to receive Pope Benedict XVI in his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona, to dedicate to the One God the temple of the Sagrada Familia. Benedict XVI, as all the Popes in our memory, will come again among us as a pilgrim of peace and of brotherhood among all peoples.
Thank you for this meeting in Barcelona. It helps us also in view of the Pope’s visit, which we keenly look forward to, hopeful that he may revive our spiritual life and help us to be builders of coexistence and peace in our society, as it becomes more and more pluralistic, reflecting the globalization of the world.
Allow me to conclude with a fragment of the prayer attributed to St Francis, and which certainly resounds well with the spirit of Assisi:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon:
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope
where there is darkness, light
where there is sadness, joy.
Dear friends, participants to this 25th Meeting for Peace, with God’s help may it be so.