Remarks of Holy Father Francis during the Celebration of the Vigil of Prayer for Peace



Saint Peter's Square
Saturday, 7 September 2013

"And God saw that it was good" (Gen 1:12, 18, 21, 25). The biblical
account of the beginning of the history of the world and of humanity
speaks to us of a God who looks at creation, in a sense contemplating
it, and declares: "It is good". This, dear brothers and sisters, allows
us to enter into God's heart and, precisely from within him, to receive
his message.

We can ask ourselves: what does this message mean? What does it say to
me, to you, to all of us?

1. It says to us simply that this, our world, in the heart and mind of
God, is the "house of harmony and peace", and that it is the space in
which everyone is able to find their proper place and feel "at home",
because it is "good". All of creation forms a harmonious and good unity,
but above all humanity, made in the image and likeness of God, is one
family, in which relationships are marked by a true fraternity not only
in words: the other person is a brother or sister to love, and our
relationship with God, who is love, fidelity and goodness, mirrors every
human relationship and brings harmony to the whole of creation. God's
world is a world where everyone feels responsible for the other, for the
good of the other. This evening, in reflection, fasting and prayer, each
of us deep down should ask ourselves: Is this really the world that I
desire? Is this really the world that we all carry in our hearts? Is the
world that we want really a world of harmony and peace, in ourselves, in
our relations with others, in families, in cities, in and between
nations? And does not true freedom mean choosing ways in this world that
lead to the good of all and are guided by love?

2. But then we wonder: Is this the world in which we are living?
Creation retains its beauty which fills us with awe and it remains a
good work. But there is also "violence, division, disagreement, war".
This occurs when man, the summit of creation, stops contemplating beauty
and goodness, and withdraws into his own selfishness.

When man thinks only of himself, of his own interests and places himself
in the centre, when he permits himself to be captivated by the idols of
dominion and power, when he puts himself in God's place, then all
relationships are broken and everything is ruined; then the door opens
to violence, indifference, and conflict. This is precisely what the
passage in the Book of Genesis seeks to teach us in the story of the
Fall: man enters into conflict with himself, he realizes that he is
naked and he hides himself because he is afraid (cf. Gen 3: 10), he is
afraid of God's glance; he accuses the woman, she who is flesh of his
flesh (cf. v. 12); he breaks harmony with creation, he begins to raise
his hand against his brother to kill him. Can we say that from harmony
he passes to "disharmony"? No, there is no such thing as "disharmony";
there is either harmony or we fall into chaos, where there is violence,
argument, conflict, fear ....

It is exactly in this chaos that God asks man's conscience: "Where is
Abel your brother?" and Cain responds: "I do not know; am I my brother's
keeper?" (Gen 4:9). We too are asked this question, it would be good for
us to ask ourselves as well: Am I really my brother's keeper? Yes, you
are your brother's keeper! To be human means to care for one another!
But when harmony is broken, a metamorphosis occurs: the brother who is
to be cared for and loved becomes an adversary to fight, to kill. What
violence occurs at that moment, how many conflicts, how many wars have
marked our history! We need only look at the suffering of so many
brothers and sisters. This is not a question of coincidence, but the
truth: we bring about the rebirth of Cain in every act of violence and
in every war. All of us! And even today we continue this history of
conflict between brothers, even today we raise our hands against our
brother. Even today, we let ourselves be guided by idols, by
selfishness, by our own interests, and this attitude persists. We have
perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have
sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves. As if it were normal, we
continue to sow destruction, pain, death! Violence and war lead only to
death, they speak of death! Violence and war are the language of death!

After the chaos of the flood, when it stopped raining, a rainbow
appeared and the dove returned with an olive branch. Today, I think also
of that olive tree which representatives of various religions planted in
the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires in 2000, asking that there be no more
chaos, asking that there be no more war, asking for peace.

3. And at this point I ask myself: Is it possible to walk the path of
peace? Can we get out of this spiral of sorrow and death? Can we learn
once again to walk and live in the ways of peace? Invoking the help of
God, under the maternal gaze of the Salus Populi Romani, Queen of Peace,
I say: Yes, it is possible for everyone! From every corner of the world
tonight, I would like to hear us cry out: Yes, it is possible for
everyone! Or even better, I would like for each one of us, from the
least to the greatest, including those called to govern nations, to
respond: Yes, we want it! My Christian faith urges me to look to the
Cross. How I wish that all men and women of good will would look to the
Cross if only for a moment! There, we can see God's reply: violence is
not answered with violence, death is not answered with the language of
death. In the silence of the Cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the
language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue, and peace is spoken.
This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and
sisters of other religions, and every man and woman of good will, cry
out forcefully: violence and war are never the way to peace! Let
everyone be moved to look into the depths of his or her conscience and
listen to that word which says: Leave behind the self-interest that
hardens your heart, overcome the indifference that makes your heart
insensitive towards others, conquer your deadly reasoning, and open
yourself to dialogue and reconciliation. Look upon your brother's sorrow
– I think of the children: look upon these… look at the sorrow of your
brother, stay your hand and do not add to it, rebuild the harmony that
has been shattered; and all this achieved not by conflict but by
encounter! May the noise of weapons cease! War always marks the failure
of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity. Let the words of Pope Paul
VI resound again: "No more one against the other, no more, never! ...
war never again, never again war!" (Address to the United Nations,
1965). "Peace expresses itself only in peace, a peace which is not
separate from the demands of justice but which is fostered by personal
sacrifice, clemency, mercy and love" (World Day of Peace Message, 1975).
Brothers and Sisters, forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation – these are
the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the
world! Let us pray this evening for reconciliation and peace, let us
work for reconciliation and peace, and let us all become, in every
place, men and women of reconciliation and peace! So may it be.

+ Pope Francis



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