Pope Francis with participants in the Rondine Citadel of Peace initiative Pope Francis with participants in the Rondine Citadel of Peace initiative 

Young peace-makers meet with Pope in Vatican

As a group from the Citadel of Peace project meet with Pope Francis in St Peter’s Square, a participant from Bosnia speaks to Vatican News, stressing the importance of the “creative transformation” of conflict.

By Joseph Tulloch

“You have decided not to live as enemies, but as brothers. May your example inspire peace in those who have political responsibilities.”

These were the words of Pope Francis at his weekly General Audience this Wednesday, as he addressed a group of around sixty young people from the Rondine Citadel of Peace project.

The initiative brings together young people from warring countries the world over – Russia and Ukraine, for example, or Israel and Lebanon – and offers them the opportunity to live together in a tiny village in the Italian region of Tuscany.

That village – Rondine – gives its name to the project, which began in 1990 and has, over the years, welcomed thousands of young people from five different continents, offering them formation, community, and a chance to practice the art of dialogue.

One current participant, who was present at Wednesday morning’s General Audience, is Ruzica, a 27 year-old psychologist from Bosnia and Herzegovina. She spoke to Vatican News about her meeting with the Pope, and the “Rondine Method” of conflict resolution.

Listen to an excerpt from our interview

Meeting with the Pope

Around sixty people affiliated with the Rondine project, Ruzica says, were present at the General Audience on Wednesday morning, and had a private meeting with the Pope afterwards.

The participants presented him with a Rondine t-shirt, and had a chance to greet him individually, an experience Ruzica describes as “really moving”.

“It was very significant,” Ruzica says, “not just for the religious aspect – which is really important to me – but also because of the Pope’s message of peace and dialogue."

The “Rondine Method”

Moving on to the Citadel of Peace initiative itself, Ruzica describes how the goal is the “creative transformation” of conflict.

“For Rondine,” she says, “conflict is not a negative thing. The meaning of conflict is to meet another person, to listen to the different point of view of the person with whom I’m in conflict.”

“I have my part of the story,” she continues, “but also the other person has their part of the story. In conflict, we need to understand that I am not more valuable than that person. My opinion is as important as that of this other person.”

Our interview with Ruzica
Our interview with Ruzica

Ambassadors of peace

The ultimate aim of the project, Ruzica explains, is for participants to return to their home countries and work for peace there.

Some of them, like Ruzica, stay in Rondine for a year, before returning to their countries of origin to implement a particular project. Other students stay in Rondine for two years, working “really intensely on the theme of conflict”.

During their time in Italy, all participants study for a master’s degree in Conflict Management and Humanitarian Action.

“For me”, Ruzica says, “the most beautiful part is that we do all of this in Rondine, and we all live together, even those who disagree, and we work to see how we can deal with our emotions, and make conflict into something good.”

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31 May 2023, 16:42