ROME — People’s prayers, like the trumpets before the ramparts of ancient Jericho, can bring down the walls that separate people and fuel distrust, making war more likely, Pope Francis said.
Remembering how the Berlin Wall came down 30 years ago, Francis said he is certain that a contributing factor was “the prayer for peace of many sons and daughters of God.”
The pope made his remarks in a message read at the Sept. 15 opening of the annual interreligious peace meeting sponsored by the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio. This year’s meeting was in Madrid; the event has taken place every year since St. John Paul II held an interreligious peace meeting in Assisi, Italy, in 1986.
“The biblical story of Jericho,” Francis said, “reminds us that walls fall when they are stormed with prayer and not weapons, with the yearning for peace and not for conquest, when people dream of a good future for everyone.”
Pray and dialogue for peace, Francis told the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and other religious leaders taking part in the meeting. “Do not be afraid because the Lord listens to the prayer of his faithful people.”
Prayers for peace “unite us all in a common sentiment without any confusion,” the pope told the religious leaders. The different religions are praying alongside each other, but not trying to pretend they have no differences, “because what is common is the yearning for peace within the variety of religious experiences and traditions.”
In the past two decades “with enormous sadness, we unfortunately have seen the wasting of that gift of God which is peace,” the pope said. It has been “squandered with new wars and with the construction of new walls and new barriers.”
Separation, divisions and hostility to migrants and to many labeled “others” fracture humanity, he said, while the “same violence” is also used to destroy the environment.
The world does not need more walls to separate people, he said. Rather, it needs “open doors that help us to communicate, to meet one another, to cooperate in order to live together in peace, respecting diversity and weaving bonds of responsibility.”
Echoing the meeting’s motto, “Peace with no borders,” Francis said, “Peace is without borders. Always. Without exception. It is what St. John XXIII wished when — at a difficult time — he addressed his words to all believers and all people of goodwill, invoking ‘peace in every land,’” in his 1963 encyclical, Pacem in Terris, issued not long after the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.
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