Aachen 2003

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September 9, Tuesday - Katschhof
Final Ceremony


Andrea Riccardi
Community of Sant’Egidio

Eminent Representatives of the World Religions,

Friends from Aachen,

Friends from all over the world,

We are experiencing an important event: an event of peace. The fact that so many people from different religions and cultures meet in the name of peace is far from being natural. It is far from natural in a world scarred by the deep wounds of division. It is far from natural in a world confronted with so many wars. Nevertheless, this has happened in Aachen. As we consider the misunderstandings there are in many parts of the world, we realise how precious this event is. It is a fact and also a responsibility for the future.

The society of consumerism makes us used to throwing away anything and buying it again afterwards. But the event of Aachen is not an object, it is not something which can be bought, it is not something which can be thrown away. It is a plant, which has grown thanks to the art of dialogue, and today it bears fruits of peace. It is a tree full of branches and covered with leaves, and it is a sign of hope. This plant needs to be cultivated. We must cultivate this plant in our own hometowns, in countries impoverished by war, in countries full of wars and misery.

This event is the plant of dialogue and it bears fruits of peace.

Often we lack the patience necessary to cultivate this plant. We lack that very tenaciousness which moves us year after year to gather so that we may continue to dialogue and restore the pattern of our fraternal conversation, which must not be interrupted. We need tenaciousness, the tenaciousness of the cultivator of peace who knows how to use the plough of dialogue, an ancient tool which is always new. This tenaciousness nurtures a dream we have all pursued for years: the dream of an open friendship between peoples and religions. Is it a dream? Of course it is; but it is also a necessity deeply felt in our world where everything seems close, but where at the same time we are still all so distant the ones from the others.

We remain faithful to this dream: we are not afraid of being disproved, we do not yield to the reasoning of violence, we do not bow to the reasoning of war, we do not mistake realism and resignation. We patiently work at the net of dialogue, torn by century-old misunderstandings and recent conflicts. With this patience, in these days, we have listened to one another and understood one another; it has made so many and so different people a single people of peace. Patience, tenaciousness and dialogue are values we are not ashamed of: they are vital for the creation of a better future. They are the arms to be used in their struggle by those who do not want to yield to pessimism, by those who do not want to be forced to believe that nothing can change, by those who do not want to forsake the world to violence and war.

We want to build a better future! This dream of ours is strengthened by these days and not defeated. Religions must not and cannot be bent on living for themselves. In these days religions have spoken words of self-critique: what have we done in face of so many wars? What have we done in face of so much hatred? More love, more peace and more dialogue are needed.

We have turned to the one God, praying for peace. Bishop Mussinghof said: “God is not Catholic. God is not Evangelical. God is not Orthodox. God is not even Christian. God is not Jewish. God is not Muslim. God is not Buddhist… God is God, the father of all men. God wants every man and every woman to be saved. God’s concern is for all men. God is God for everybody. He is our father”.

God, my dear friends, speaks of a single destiny for the world. God speaks of unity.

The world is globalised, but it is far from being united. It is too much divided and torn apart. It is globalised, but it is not at peace. It is globalised, but far from being unified.

In these days the name of God has spoken of unity. This has to be a goal for all of us. Unity means peace. Peace is unity among different people, people who remain different, but understand one another at the light of the face of one God, in a vision of peace. Unity means not to let a part of the world crumble in misery and abandonment. Unity means solidarity and justice.

Thanks to you all, friends from Asia, who have come from far away and opened the treasures of your traditions to us. Thanks to you, African friends, who have spoken about your continent showing how much it has to give to ours and how the world has forgotten it. Thanks to you, friends from the Middle East: together with you we ask for peace! Thanks to you, friends from the Americas, you have joined us Europeans and together with the Germans we have welcomed you all in this Europe of ours.

We have heard many voices, different, but not necessarily in conflict. A harmony of words and experiences shows us that it is possible to live in peace, it shows us that peace is the message at the heart of all religions. The plant still needs to grow, and give even better fruits of peace: we shall work at it with the ancient and new tool, which is dialogue. We have not stopped dreaming. It is our way of building a better and more human world.



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