(from our correspondent in Münster) The first step to free the world from “the evils of war and hatred” is to “feel the pain of others, to make it our own, neither overlooking it or becoming inured to it. We must never grow accustomed or indifferent to evil”. This is what Pope Francis demands of religious leaders, the world’s political leaders and the representatives of the world of culture in a message that the Apostolic Nuncio to Germany, Mgr. Nikola Eterović, read out yesterday afternoon at the opening of the international meeting “Paths of Peace”, organised in Münster by the Sant’Egidio Community “in the spirit of Assisi”. “What we may not and must not do is remain indifferent, allowing tragedies of hatred to pass unnoticed, and men and women to be cast aside for the sake of power and profit. Your meeting in these days, and your desire to blaze new paths of peace and for peace, can be seen as a response to the call to overcome indifference in the face of human suffering”.
A crowd of 2,500 people gathered in the “Messe und Congress Centrum” listened to Pope Francis’ words, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel; the President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou; the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad al-Tayyib; the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, John X; and the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani. The theme of the meeting “Paths of Peace” is an invitation – Pope Francis wrote – to “forge new paths of peace. How greatly this is needed, especially where conflicts seem intractable, where the will to undertake processes of reconciliation is lacking, where trust is placed in arms and not in dialogue, thus leaving entire peoples plunged into a dark night of violence, without hope for a dawn of peace”. Religions in particular are called to satisfy this “thirst for peace” that arises within humanity today. They will only be able to do so if religious leaders insist that “God detests war, that war is never holy, and that violence can never be perpetrated or justified in the name of God”. “No longer are some against others; now all stand beside one another”. Religions “cannot desire anything less than peace, as they pray and serve, ever ready to help those hurt by life and oppressed by history, ever concerned to combat indifference and to promote paths of communion”. For Pope Francis, it is significant that the meeting takes place in the heart of Europe, in the year that marks the sixtieth anniversary of the founding treaties of the European Union signed in Rome in 1957. “May your presence in Germany be a sign and a summons for Europe to cultivate peace through a commitment to paving new paths to a solid unity within and a greater openness to the outside. May we never forget that peace is not only the fruit of our human efforts, but of openness to God”.