By Vatican News staff writer
Pope Francis received in audience on Saturday morning members of the Paris-based "Leaders pour la Paix" (Leaders for Peace) Foundation, which aims to promote peace through conflict prevention and educating the public and decision-makers regarding the risks we face if the various crises affecting the planet are not addressed. Leaders for Peace brings together over twenty renowned world leaders with extensive international experience and a strong commitment to the service of peace and humanity.
Pope Francis acknowleged that we are facing a “particularly critical moment in history” with the pandemic yet to be overcome and the resulting economic and social crises, hitting the poorest especially. He stressed that their commitment to peace “has never been more necessary or urgent”, given the multiple, converging challenges the world faces in the political and environmental spheres as well with hunger, climate, nuclear weapons to name a few.
At the same time, the Pope paid tribute to what the Leaders of Peace Foundation aims to do by helping leaders and citizens address today’s critical issues “as opportunities” and doing constructive work to address them. He cited the environmental crisis as a chance that could lead to important decisions by world leaders and also by the citizenry, while sometimes good ideas come from citizens and make their way up to decision makers. The important thing is that we act, the Pope noted, while also being aware of the risk on how such initiatives can be exploited by interest groups for ideological reasons. The possibility for constructive progress remains in any case, he said, by sharing knowledge of the problems and their causes in order to arrive at solutions, this “education for peace” they promote.
The Pope pointed out that the isolation and “hypertensions” caused by the pandemic have made political action all the more difficult, but this can become “an opportunity to promote a ‘better kind of politics’", which is needed for “the development of a global community of fraternity based on the practice of social friendship” (Fratelli Tutti, n. 154). To build peace, the Pope recalled from his encyclical Fratelli Tutti, there is need of “architecture” that involves various structured institutions of society to intervene, as well as “art” for peace that involves the creative input of all society and our own contributions.
“Cultural and institutional” realms need to be involved, the Pope said, noting how the cultural side “places at the center the dignity of the person” and can encourage a dialogue that generates “confidence in the reserves of goodness present in human hearts.” The institutional dimension can be the place “to foster dialogue and multilateral collaboration”, and ideally “preference should be given to multilateral agreements between states, because, more than bilateral agreements, they guarantee the promotion of a truly universal common good and the protection of weaker states.”
In conclusion, the Pope encouraged those present in their commitment to peace and a more just and fraternal society, praying that God may help them experience the “joy which he has promised to peacemakers.”