ComunitÓ di S.Egidio

de Lisboa

 September 26th, 2000
Praša do Municipio

Closing Ceremony

Message of H.H. John Paul II


I am particularly glad to entrust to You, Cardinal Cassidy, the task to convey my esteem and my greetings to the illustrious Representatives of the Christian Churches and Communities and of the great world Religions, gathered this year in Lisbon for the 13th International Meeting on the theme: Oceans of Peace, Religions and Cultures in Dialogue.
My mind goes back to 1986 when, for the first time, men and women belonging to different religions met together to call to God for peace, on the hill of Assisi, where St Francis bore his witness. That could not remain a unique event. Its spiritual impact was truly powerful: it was like a spring from which fresh energies of peace began to flow. For this reason I wished the "Spirit of Assisi" not to die out, but to spread all over the world generating a witnesses of peace and dialogue everywhere. This world, plagued by so many conflicts, misunderstandings and prejudice, has a desperate need of peace and dialogue.
Therefore I would particularly like to thank the Community of Sant'Egidio for the enthusiasm and spiritual courage it showed in collecting the message of Assisi and spreading it in so many places around the world, through the meeting of people of different religions. I remember the meeting in Bucharest in 1998, which had such a vast echo in Romania, where, during my apostolic visit, I heard people cry insistently and repeatedly: "Unitate! Unitate!". Indeed, dear Christian sisters and brothers, that commitment to unity remains a priority. We are looking with hope at the century that has just begun, because - as I wrote in "Ut Unum Sint" - "The long history of Christians, marked by so many divisions, seems to converge once again towards Jesus Christ, the source of its unity". (n.22).
I believe that the "Spirit of Assisi" represents a providential gift for our times. In the diversity of religious expressions, honestly recognized as such, the fact of standing side by side manifests, also in a visible way, how deeply the human family yearns for unity. We all have to walk towards this common goal. I remember when, as a young bishop during the Second Vatican Council, I also signed the Declaration "Nostra Aetate" which started a fruitful relationship among the Catholic Church, Judaism, Islam and the other religions. That Council declaration states that the Church, "in her tasks of promoting unity and love among human beings and among nations, considers, above all, what they have in common and leads them to share their common destiny" (n. 1).
Dialogue among religions must aim to this and must act for this. Today, with the Grace of God, this dialogue is no longer only an auspice; it has become a reality, even if the path ahead of us is still long.
How could we not be grateful to the Lord for the gift of this mutual opening, which is at the base of a deeper understanding between the Catholic Church and Judaism? The memories of the unforgettable pilgrimage in the Holy Land are still alive in me. Yet, meaningful fruits have been achieved also in the path of encounter with Islam, with the Eastern religions and with the great cultures of the contemporary world.
At the dawn of the new millennium we must not slow our pace. On the contrary, it is necessary to hasten even more on such a promising journey.
You know well that dialogue neither ignores real differences, nor does it deny the common dimension of being pilgrims, walking towards new lands and new heavens. But dialogue also invites everyone to strengthen that friendship which neither separates nor brings confusion. We must all be more audacious on this pathway, so that the men and women of our world, whatever their nationality or belief, may recognize themselves as children of one God, brothers and sisters.
Today you are in Lisbon, on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, and your eyes are led to look beyond and see the world's nations and cultures. Lisbon is the first step of your common path in this new century. Therefore I thank Your Lordship, Patriarch JosÚ da Cruz Policarpo, and all Your Church for the hospitality You have shown to this pilgrimage. With You, I greet all the Brother Bishops and the beloved Portuguese people, which I had the opportunity to meet during my recent pilgrimage to Fatima.
Many are the problems which gather on the world's horizons. But humanity is in search of a new balance of peace. As I wrote on the occasion of the Meeting "Peoples and Religions" in Milan in 1993: "It is therefore necessary and urgent to rediscover the taste and the willingness to walk together, in order to build a world based on solidarity, overcoming particular group, ethnic and national interests.
What an important task religions can accomplish! Poor as they may be in human means, they are richly endowed with that universal aspiration which is rooted in a sincere relationship with God" (Insegnamenti, vol. XVI/2, 1993,778)
I entrust to You, Cardinal Edward I Cassidy, my Message for the participants to the meeting of Lisbon, to which I send once again my cordial greeting. I invoke on all present the blessing of God Almighty.
With God's help may the men and women of every nation upon the earth continue, with renewed determination, on the way of peace and mutual understanding.

From the Vatican, 21st September 2000