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Pope Francis at the spiritual exercises on March 11, 2019. Pope Francis at the spiritual exercises on March 11, 2019.   (ANSA)

Pope’s spiritual exercises: cities as spaces for reconciliation, peace and encounter

Pope Francis and his collaborators who are on spiritual retreat, heard the second meditation, Monday morning, on the need for cities to rediscover their universal vocation to be the reflection of the heavenly Jerusalem on earth.

By Robin Gomes

Pope Francis and 65 of his collaborators from the Roman Curia who are on their Lenten spiritual exercises, March 10-15, at the Casa Divin Maestro in the town of Arricia, just outside Rome, heard a meditation Monday morning on the need to make our cities symbols of peace, fraternity and hospitality.    

Heavenly Jerusalem on earth

The retreat preacher, Italian Benedictine Abbot Bernardo Francesco Maria Gianni, delivered the meditation drawing much from the saintly mayor of the Italian city of Florence, Giorgio La Pira, who believed in God’s dream that a city modelled on the heavenly Jerusalem was possible on earth. 

This dream or plan, Abbot Gianni explained, concerns not just the city of Florence of La Pira but all the cities of the world understood as a "space for reconciliation, peace and encounter", in contrast to a world that is too often condemned to despair, resignation and darkness that are deemed invincible.   

The Benedictine monk also spoke about the "universal mystery" that leads each city to rediscover its true vocation and to reflect the heavenly Jerusalem, where people live cohesively, animated by ardent desires and great hopes.

Far from being an irrational, dreamlike and meaningless digression, he explained, this dream is so concrete that it opens the horizon to the action of God.  Revisiting and renewing cities top-down, as La Pira wrote, thus becomes fundamental for the good of the people and of political, technical and economic structures.

This is the contemplative outlook of faith, that seeks to implement the history of Christ in the world, despite every effort to break the harmony, beauty and splendour of the city of God. 

“Transfiguring yeast”

Recalling Giorgio La Pira and the Italian poet Mario Luzi, the Benedictine monk said that this extraordinary dream calls for the involvement of not only of civil structures but also and primarily the action of the Church so that the God’s dream for all men may be triumphant and concrete.

God’s dream, the retreat preacher pointed out, has already had admirable achievements in past centuries and it will have even more admirable achievements in the course of future centuries.   This is because the design of the Holy Spirit never remains a distant and ineffective model or an ideal but works in the lives of men as a “transfiguring yeast”.

Abbot Gianni said that this is a call to witness to the Holy Spirit whose flame is the only thing that can stop the “devastating fire of the world”.  Through prayer, progress, beauty, work, and peace and testimonies such as concrete gestures, trust in God and dialogue of love, can restore to every city its universal mission without destruction and war.

Gaze of faith

In conclusion, the retreat preacher talked about the need to behold the city with a gaze of faith that discovers God who dwells in its homes, streets and squares.   God lives among the citizens promoting solidarity, brotherhood, the desire for goodness, truth and justice, Abbot Gianni said,  adding that He does not hide Himself from those who seek Him with a sincere heart.

11 March 2019, 16:34