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From Castel Gandolfo, 4 September 2012

Dear Cardinal,

I am particularly glad to convey to you the cordial greeting and appreciation of the Holy Father Benedict XVI to the distinguished Representatives of the Churches and Christian Communities and of the great world Religions, as well as to the people of Sarajevo, particularly dear to him, and to all those who are gathered to celebrate the 26th International Meeting [of Prayer] for Peace, organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio.

It is a cause of joy and comfort to see that this pilgrimage of peace, which Blessed John Paul II started in Assisi in October 1986, is continuing to bear fruit. The Supreme Pontiff himself wished to emphasize its meaning last year, 25 years later, by going as a pilgrim to the town of St Francis with so many believers and numerous men and women of good will, who are sincerely seeking the truth and are thus committed to building peace. On that occasion he noted that the cause of peace is threatened today by a double risk: on the one hand the exploitation of religion as a reason for violence, and on the other, the “no” to God in the name of a completely secularized view of the human being who, in turn, is capable of perpetrating violence that knows no bounds. Moreover the effects of the convergence of these two negative forces were tragically experienced in the city of Sarajevo, in the war that began 20 years ago, sowing death and destruction in the Balkans.

As an antidote to this ever recurrent threat, Pope Benedict XVI relaunched in Assisi the alliance between people of religion and people who do not feel that they belong to any religious tradition but are sincerely seeking the truth, in the conviction that from a profound and sincere dialogue can arise: for the former, the commitment to an ever necessary purification of the practised religion, and for the latter, constant openness to the great questions of humanity and to the Mystery that enfolds human life.

Thus the common pilgrimage to the truth may turn into the common pilgrimage to peace. The International Meetings for Peace organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio are an expression of this. The meeting in Sarajevo this year acquires a special value. In the words of Blessed John Paul II, who felt such close ties with this city, “it cannot be forgotten that Sarajevo has become the symbol of the suffering of the whole of Europe in this century. It was so at the beginning of the 1900s, when the First World War had its beginning here; it was so in a different way this second time, when the conflict took place entirely within this region of yours” (Homily, Sarajevo, 13 April 1997).

Today, thanks to the many men and women of different religions, Sarajevo wishes to send a message of peace. Peace needs to be sustained by hearts and minds in search of the truth and which open themselves to God’s action, holding their hands out to others. It is thus important to extend our gaze to the whole world and to the situations that are problematic for coexistence, reconciliation and peace, which still characterize them, with hope and commitment: in fact, the threat of terrorism, so many wars that are staining the earth with blood, violence of brothers against brothers, seem never ending. Our world truly needs peace! Indeed, from our world the cry raises ever more loudly: “May peace come!”. In these days the Holy Father is thinking in a special way of the Middle East, of the dramatic situation in Syria and of the Apostolic Journey he is preparing to make to Lebanon. The hope is that these lands, and all lands in need of reconciliation and tranquillity, may soon find peace in serene coexistence, in stability and in respect for human rights.

The long experience of dialogue, also developed through these Meetings, shows how deceptive the culture of conflict is, whereas it highlights the value of dialogue set firmly on the path of the truth from which peace flows: living together, “this social dimension is basically a simple aptitude that derives directly from our human condition. It is therefore our task to give it a positive slant. Living together can turn into living in antagonism, it can become hell if we do not learn to accept each other and if no one wants to be anything other than himself. However, opening oneself to others and offering oneself to others can also be a gift” (Benedict XVI, Message for the International Meeting of Prayer for Peace, Munich, 1 September 2011). It is an awareness that must increase in the consciences of people and of peoples.

“Living together is the future”! For we Christians this vision is rooted in faith: “the God in whom we Christians believe is the Creator and Father of all, and from him all people are brothers and sisters and form one single family. For us the Cross of Christ is the sign of the God who put ‘suffering-with’ and ‘loving-with’ in place of force” (Benedict XVI, Discourse at Assisi, 27 October 2011).

While the Holy Father expresses his hope for a successful meeting, he joins in spirit with everyone present, in the certainty that the Lord, Father of all humankind, will continue to guide us on the path of peace and of the peaceful encounter among peoples, blessing all our commitments.

I join in the wishes of the Supreme Pontiff and take this opportunity to express to you, Dear Cardinal, the sentiments of my respect and esteem in Christ.

+ Tarcisio Card. Bertone
Secretary of State


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