Historian, Founder of the Community of Sant'Egidio
Distinguished religious leaders,
We are stronger and more hopeful after these days together, not because we have neglected the problems of our countries and the world. We have discussed them like a family, feeling that no people is alone. It has been a great gift, thanks to the Spirit of Assisi, which helps us express the peaceful soul of every religious tradition, which does not cancel differences, and teaches people to feel responsible for each other. We are all different, but neither alien nor hostile: all relatives, yet all different!
In the ten years that have gone by we have not forgotten the path of Assisi, even when it seemed naïve or useless, risky or out of time, even when many people believed it a dangerous utopia. Our one honour is to have understood what a great gift the vision stemming from the prophetic intuition of Assisi is, and remaining faithful to it, year after year.
We are stronger and more hopeful having lived these days in Munich in Bavaria, because we have set prayer at the heart of our days. We have prayed one close to the other, never again against the other, as the great John Paul II taught. We come now from moments of profound prayer.
We have descended into the depths of our religions and this teaches us to be men and women of peace, as our beloved Benedict XVI wrote to us in his message of high spiritual value. And the Pope added: this meeting of ours is an opportunity “for religions to questions themselves and ask themselves how to become forces of coexistence”. Yes, religions are forces of living together, the foundations of a civilization of coexistence. Religions live together in mutual respect, freedom and friendship. In doing this they support peace.
We are stronger and more hopeful that before, because we did not yield to hopelessness and pessimism. In 1938 the Munich Conference marked the yielding of European governments to the arrogant power of National Socialism. At Dachau we saw one fruit of that arrogant power. We went there as pilgrims. That arrogant power would have made the whole of Europe into a lager. But even there, at the school of pain, ecumenism originated among believers. In 2011, this international meeting in Munich was a great event of hope and spiritual strength.
Munich has become the capital of the spirit. On its streets we heard not the heavy steps of soldiers, but the light steps of the seekers of God and pilgrims of peace. Munich has become the happy capital of the spirit, thanks also to the open and welcoming character of its people. I thank everyone, authorities and citizens, for your participation and friendliness. Above all I wish to thank Cardinal Marx, an intelligent host and a man of the spirit and of peace. Your Eminence, in these days in Munich we have not only organized an excellent congress, we have carried out an event of the spirit that marks us all. It will be communicated like strength of hope and dream of peace. We leave Munich stronger in our hope for the coming decade. From Munich an invocation for peace rises, and we are convinced that God hears us. From Munich a hymn to life rises, and it sings the joy of peace and being together.
These have been blessed days, and they strengthen us. This strength will extinguish the fire of war. It will support us when we have to bring peace where there is hatred, misunderstanding, and indifference. Let us not be content with keeping to our sheltered and tranquil corner, feeling hopeless for the world. Let us not rest until there is peace all around us and all over the world. In a globalized world we cannot limit ourselves to economic globalization; we need a wide heart and a universal scope. Men and women of peace are universal brothers and sisters.
We are full of hope, so full we can determinedly say: may the new decade be truly new! Peace is that novelty, peace in a world more just with the poor, where the rich learn to act with sobriety and truly take part in the struggle against poverty. Peace is a dream; it is hope, not utopia. It is a dream that ripens in the heart of spiritual women and men, who do not yield to evil, to lack of freedom, religious freedom as well as freedom from misery. Peace, very concretely, is our vision of the future; because peace is a divine vision, for it is the very name of God.