Pope: Assisi Showed Us
What We Have to Share
Benedict XVI Points to
Two Forms of Violence Threatening Today
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 28, 2011 (Zenit.org).-
As Benedict XVI bid farewell today to the delegations that had joined him
Thursday in Assisi, he reflected that the pilgrimage highlighted a genuine
desire to contribute to the good of humanity, and "how much we have to
share with one another."
"As we go our separate ways, let us draw strength from this
experience and, wherever we may be, let us continue refreshed on the journey
that leads to truth, the pilgrimage that leads to peace," the Pope said to
the representatives of world religions and non-believers.
On Thursday, some 176 people -- representing not only the world's
religions, but all people of good will, everyone seeking the truth -- gathered
in Assisi to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the event convoked there by
Blessed John Paul II in 1986.
The German Pontiff styled the commemoration a pilgrimage, with the
theme "Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace."
The Pontiff and members of the various delegations left the
Vatican by train at 8 a.m. Thursday, reaching Assisi at 9:45 a.m. where they
were greeted by the civil and religious authorities in front of the Basilica of
Santa Maria degli Angeli. As the ceremony unfolded inside the basilica, the
large numbers of faithful present were able to follow events on giant screens
set up in the square outside.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for
Justice and Peace, greeted
everyone and a video was shown in commemoration of the 1986 meeting.
Then, one after the other, the representatives of the various
religions rose to speak: His Holiness Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch of
Constantinople; Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury; Archbishop
Norvan Zakarian, primate of the Armenian Diocese of France; Reverend Olav Fyske Tveit,
secretary-general of the World Council of Churches; Rabbi David Rosen,
representative of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel; Wande Abimbola, spokesperson
for the Yoruba faith; Acharya Shri Shrivatsa Goswami, representative for
Hinduism; Ja-Seung, president of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism; Kyai Haji Hasyom Muzadi,
secretary-general of the International Conference of Islamic Schools, and Julia
Kristeva, representing non-believers.
Benedict XVI's address reflected on
all that has transpired in peace-seeking in the last 25 years. John Paul II's
Assisi gathering was held just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, he noted,
and today, the forms of violence are different.
"Let us try to identify the new faces of violence and discord
more closely," he suggested. "It seems to me that, in broad strokes,
we may distinguish two types of the new forms of violence, which are the very
antithesis of each other in terms of their motivation and manifest a number of
differences in detail."
The Holy Father first spoke of terrorism, a phenomenon in which
religion "does not serve peace," but is "used as justification
for violence." A type of discord in which "everything that had been
commonly recognized and sanctioned in international law as the limit of
violence is overruled."
He then spoke of another religiously-motivated violence: when
force is used by the defenders of one religion against others.
But this, the Pope affirmed, "is not the true nature of
religion. It is the antithesis of religion and contributes to its
"As a Christian I want to say at this point: yes, it is true,
in the course of history, force has also been used in the name of the Christian
faith," he continued. "We acknowledge it with great shame. But it is
utterly clear that this was an abuse of the Christian faith, one that evidently
contradicts its true nature."
Benedict XVI then turned his attention to another basic type of
violence, precisely the opposite of the first, that occurs "as a result of
God's absence, his denial and the loss of humanity which goes hand in hand with
"The denial of God has led to much cruelty and to a degree of
violence that knows no bounds, which only becomes possible when man no longer
recognizes any criterion or any judge above himself, now having only himself to
take as a criterion," the Pope observed.
Though mentioning the concentration camps in this regard, he
clarified that he would not speak about state-imposed atheism, but rather
"about the decline of man, which is accompanied by a change in the
spiritual climate that occurs imperceptibly and hence is all the more
The Pontiff warned of the "worship of mammon, possessions and
power" saying this "is proving to be a counter-religion, in which it
is no longer man who counts but only personal advantage. The desire for
happiness degenerates, for example, into an unbridled, inhuman craving, such as
appears in the different forms of drug dependency."
Ever the professor, Benedict XVI offered a synthesis of his
reflection: "I said that there is a way of understanding and using
religion so that it becomes a source of violence, while the rightly lived
relationship of man to God is a force for peace. In this context I referred to
the need for dialogue and I spoke of the constant need for purification of
lived religion. On the other hand I said that the denial of God corrupts man,
robs him of his criteria and leads him to violence."
Then, he moved to a consideration of agnosticism, and those who
"suffer from [God's] absence and yet are inwardly making their way towards
him, inasmuch as they seek truth and goodness."
"These people are seeking the truth, they are seeking the
true God, whose image is frequently concealed in the religions because of the
ways in which they are often practiced," the Pope said. "Their
inability to find God is partly the responsibility of believers with a limited
or even falsified image of God. So all their struggling and questioning is in
part an appeal to believers to purify their faith, so that God, the true God,
Benedict XVI described the Assisi event as a "case of being
together on a journey towards truth, a case of taking a decisive stand for
human dignity and a case of common engagement for peace against every form of
destructive force. (...) We are animated by the common desire to be 'pilgrims
of truth, pilgrims of peace.'"
Paix et joie,
Richard Chamberland, ofs