By Robin Gomes
“I will tell the Pope that peace is being built here, little by little, brick by brick.” These are the words of Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to young people when he paid a brief visit on Tuesday to the tiny medieval hamlet of Cittadella della Pace (literally, “Citadel of Peace”), in the heartland of Italy’s Tuscany region.
The village is home to the so-called 'Rondine Cittadella della Pace', an association that promotes a culture of peace and dialogue, especially working with people from countries who live or have just experienced wars and conflicts.
Living with the “enemy”
Simply called Rondine, the non-profit international peace initiative was founded in 1988 by Italian psychologist and academic, Franco Vaccari. It was inspired by the project called the World House, which hosts young people from countries where, currently or recently, conflicts have assumed violent forms. These young people accept to live with their own “enemy”, in order to learn how to face their conflict and turn it into an opportunity for change. The World House programme lasts two years during which they experiment with innovation through conviviality, daily activities, non-formal and formal education.
"Speaking with you I discover that you come from areas full of tensions and conflicts and that this effort to build peace here is a beautiful thing,” Cardinal Parolin told the young people who participated in a year of training based on the so-called ‘Rondine Method’ and leadership.
ffMaking the Mediterranean a frontier of peace
Cardinal Parolin said he would carry their greetings to Pope Francis and talk to him about their commitment. Among those he met on Tuesday were eleven young men and women chosen for the project "Mediterranean: the frontier of peace, education and reconciliation ”, launched by the Italian Bishops' Conference in the southern Italian city of Bari in February 2020.
“Despite the difficult past year we are very happy to have managed to come to Italy to work on our projects and to demonstrate that it is possible to live together and dialogue” said Amina, a young Bosnian woman, speaking on behalf of the young people of the Mediterranean. She said that the projects that they will carry out back home in their countries will have as their objective dialogue, reconciliation and peace. They will continue to develop their network for social cohesion in the Mediterranean which they are building at Rondine Cittadella della Pace.
Cardinal Parolin stopped by Cittadella della Pace during his visit to Arezzo city, where he celebrated the local feast of Our Lady of Consolation, who is greatly revered in the city.