Cardinal, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, Holy See
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! "May they prosper who love you!
Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers!"
For my brethren and companions' sake I will say, "Peace be within you!"
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem”. How many times this invocation of prayer echoed from the Psalms of the Holy Bible throughout the centuries, or even, the millennia. How many times Jerusalem, city of peace, was besieged and destroyed: by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, by the Romans and the crusaders. How many times Jerusalem was contended, as it happens also today, by Jews, Christians and Muslims. In Jerusalem, the three religions venerate their holy places. All three love Jerusalem and therefore want to be there. All three have the right to dwell there in peace, but they can be there only together, and in a peaceful manner. All three pray the one God, who is not a God of violence, but a “God of peace”, as he is often named as such in the Bible.
How many times have we prayed for peace in Jerusalem in the last weeks. How many times have we prayed for peace between Jews and Muslims in that region, affected by conflict, in which, again and again, innocent people from all sides – women and children, sick, elderly and youth – suffer and die, live in fear and terror. To us, they are not an unknown humanity, they are, as the Psalm says – our brothers and friends: what else can we wish them but peace? What else, in fact, do they long for? What else do men and women of goodwill everywhere in the world long for, but peace within their walls and security within their towers?
We are not naïve. We are aware of the existing political, economical and religious constraints; we are aware of the remote origin of this bloody conflict. We are aware of the mounting frustration, of the desperation, of the fear, of the injustice and even of the hatred. We are aware that good words alone can not solve problems. Today a solution seems beyond human capacity. For this reason, we are not so naïve to think that we can solve problems through missiles, bombs or grenades. Missiles, bombs and grenades do not solve anything, they only bring about destruction and death. War does not lead to peace. War is often the mother of other wars. These wars create more terrorists than the ones that are eliminated. War is always a defeat, it is the defeat of humanity, the downfall of hope and of peace expectations.
When I was young, during the terrible years of the World War II, a poem circulated in the anti-aircraft shelters and in the trenches. That poem began with the following words: “Only prayer can free us from the sword looming on our head”. The words of this poem recall an ancient belief of religious humanity, that we also found in the Psalm we read. Decisions about war and peace are taken not predominantly, or not only, by governments, military people or diplomats. War and peace have a deeper origin; they spring from the hearts and minds of men and women. Evil or good intentions of individuals and peoples stem from the heart. And it is in the hearts and minds that conversion and renewal must begin. The heart is the breeding place of the will of reconciliation and peace, which is possible only if justice will include all.
Only God and his Holy Spirit can reach the heart of man. Only God can grant us a new heart, not a heart of stone but a heart of flesh and blood, a compassionate heart. No one but God can inspire us feelings of peace. For this reason, the prayer for peace is a weapon which is definitely more powerful than missiles, bombs or grenades; prayer is the real superpower of this world. Jesus teaches us that faith can move mountains. Why should God, while listening to our common prayer, not unlock the complications, and solve the unsolvable - from a human point of view – quandary of the Middle East?
The Psalm contains a promise for Jerusalem. It is the promise of God that wants peace. He promised the establishment of peace for Jerusalem. We are before the starting point of Peace: Jerusalem will engender a universal peace for humankind, for the entire world. We build on this promise, we rely on this promise. For this reason we will pray – tirelessly - for the peace of Jerusalem, for the peace of the land that is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims; the land of promise and peace. For this reason, pray assiduously for reconciliation and peace.