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Before God and before history

“War never again! Never again war!” he said at the Angelus and posted on Twitter — taking up Paul VI’s words to the United Nations. With these words, Pope Francis expressed a cry that, as he says, rises up from “the one great family which is humanity”, without exception. That not everyone in the world desires or works for peace is a quick and bitter realization, but the hope for peace is certainly present everywhere, in the face of wars too often forgotten. Just as is happening now, and increasingly, in the face of the tragedy in Syria that for more than two years has taken tens of thousands of lives — mostly civilian — and is giving rise to a massive exodus of refugees.

For this reason, the Bishop of Rome — who said he was deeply wounded by what was happening and above all “anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming” — raises his voice once again to condemn strongly the use of arms and “with utmost firmness” that of chemical weapons. “I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart!”, Pope Francis exclaimed. And he immediately pronounced grave words on which the leaders of nations are bound to reflect: “There is a judgment of God and of history upon our actions which are inescapable!”.

The Pope’s entire discourse was focused on the international situation, conflicts which have been multiplying for far too long, without respite. However, in the past few weeks it has seen a fierce escalation that brings us to the present Syrian tragedy. Therefore, in a deeply disturbing context with an unforeseeable outcome, Pope Francis reiterates the indispensable and urgent need to abandon the culture of confrontation and conflict: it is in fact only “a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue” that can lead to coexistence within peoples and among peoples, “this is the only way to peace”. It is this the Holy See points too and for which its diplomacy labours through every possible means.

The words of the Bishop of Rome are addressed explicitly to the parties involved in conflict and to the international community. But even more significant is his reference to John XXIII’s words on peace: namely, that “it pertains to each individual to establish new relationships in human society under the mastery and guidance of justice and love”. Pope Francis thus asks that the commitment to peace bind “all men and women of good will”, Catholics, Christians, followers of other religions and “those brothers and sisters who do not believe” as well. And for this very reason the Pontiff extends to each and every one the invitation to participate in the Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace in Syria, in the Middle East and throughout the world, which he announced with an unprecedented initiative, awakening interest and adherence far beyond the Catholic Church.

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