Vatican City, 10 May 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall Pope Francis received in audience more than seven thousand children and young people, who form part of the “Peace Factory”, an initiative promoted by various institutions, including the Ministry of Education and the Italian Episcopal Conference, to favour multi-ethnic integration and to raise awareness among spiritual, political and educational leaders so that they use the language of peace. The Peace Factory, presented on 5 May at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is a large laboratory that seeks to involve all schools in an educational network that, through art, theatre, new technologies and sport, offers a formation in human values to all boys and girls, starting from elementary school.
Upon arrival in the Hall, the Pope was warmly greeted by the thousands of Factory “workers”, and answered the questions that some of them posed to him, emphasising above all the inseparable relationship between peace and justice. Francis did not pronounce the discourse he had prepared, but we publish several extracts from it here below:
“Thank you for your invitation to work with you in the 'Peace Factory'! It is good workplace as it is about building a society without injustice and violence, where all children and young people may be welcomed and grow in love. There is a great need for peace factories, as unfortunately there is no lack of war factories! … War is the result of hatred, selfishness, the desire to own more and to dominate others. And to combat it you pledge to spread the culture of inclusion, reconciliation and encounter. … It is a good path, that requires courage and strength, so that everyone may understand the need for a change in mentality, to ensure the safety of children on the planet, and especially those who live in areas afflicted by wars and persecution”.
“The term 'factory' tells us that peace is something that has to … be built with wisdom and tenacity. But to build a world of peace, we need to begin with our own world, that is, the environments in which we live every day: the family, school, the playground, the gym, the oratory. … And it is important to work together with the people who live next to us: our friends, schoolmates, parents and educators. We need the help of all in order to build a better future. … The true builder of peace is one who makes the first step towards the other. And this is not weakness, but strength, the strength of peace. How can we put an end to wars in the world, if we are not capable of overcoming our minor misunderstandings and our arguments? Our acts of dialogue, forgiveness and reconciliation are bricks that serve to construct the edifice of peace”.
“Another characteristic of this factory is that it has no borders. One breathes an air of acceptance and encounter without barriers or exclusion. Faced with people from different countries and ethnic groups, who have other traditions and religions, your attitude is that of knowledge and dialogue, for the inclusion of all, with respect for the laws of the State. And you have understood that to construct a world of peace it is indispensable to take an interest in the needs of the poorest, the most suffering and abandoned, even those who are far away. I think of many of your peers who, just for the fact of being Christians, have been driven from their homes, their countries, and some have been killed for holding the Bible in their hands! And in this way the work of your 'factory' truly becomes a work of love. Loving others, especially the most disadvantaged, means showing that every person is a gift of God. Every person”.
“But peace itself is a gift of God, a gift to ask for trustfully in prayer. Therefore it is important not only to be witnesses of peace and love, but also witnesses of prayer. Prayer is speaking to God, our Father in Heaven, to entrust to Him our wishes, our joys, our sorrows. Prayer is asking Him for forgiveness every time we err and commit a sin, in the certainty that He always forgives. His goodness towards us drives us too to be merciful towards our brothers, forgiving them from our heart when they offend us or harm us. And, finally, peace has a face and a heart: it is the face and the heart of Jesus, the Son of God, Who died on the cross and rose again to bring peace to every man and to all humanity. Jesus is 'our peace', as he tore down the wall of hate that separated men from each other”.