POPE Francis has called on the world’s Christians to pray with him for peace in the Middle East, to help convince governments to come to the aid of refugees and pray for Christian unity.
While peace was a gift from God, it was also built out of the day-to-day handiwork of individuals: true “artisans of peace”, who were capable of crafting fraternity and reconciliation with people of all cultures and religions, he said during his general audience in St Peter’s Square on May 28.
Reviewing his May 24-26 trip to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Pope told the tens of thousands of people in the square that his visit to the Holy Land, “that blessed land”, was a great gift of grace for the Church and himself.
He said he had gone to “bring a word of hope, but I received one in return, too”, meeting people who still hoped “against hope”, enduring much suffering, “like those who fled their own country because of conflict”, or facing discrimination and persecution “because of their faith in Christ”.
“During the pilgrimage,” he said, “I encouraged authorities to continue efforts to diffuse the tensions in the Middle East region, above all in martyred Syria, as well as to continue to seek a fair solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
That was why, he said, he invited Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas – “both men of peace and builders of peace – to come to the Vatican to pray together with me for peace”.
As the people in the square applauded, the Pope told them, “Please, I ask all of you not to abandon us; pray hard so that the Lord gives us peace in that blessed land.
“I am counting on your prayers – pray hard, and a lot, so that peace may come.”
“There are no industries of peace” – outside, super-entities that can magically mass-produce a world free of conflict – the Pope told the crowd.
“No,” peace “is created day-by-day, handcrafted” by individuals whose hearts were open to God’s gift of peace.
“That’s why I urged Christians to let themselves be anointed” by the Holy Spirit, so they may always be “ever more capable of gestures of humility, fraternity and reconciliation” in their interactions with people of different cultures and religions.
During his trip, he said, he encouraged everyone to work for peace. “Each time I did it as a pilgrim, in the name of God and mankind, carrying in my heart great compassion for the children” of the Holy Land, which “has lived with war for too long and has the right to finally know days of peace”.
The Pope said he was truly “struck by the generosity of the Jordanian people for welcoming refugees”.
He said he thanked the country’s leaders and people for their humanitarian efforts, “which merit and require constant support from the international community”.
He asked that God bless not only the refugees, but those who came to their aid, and he called on people to “ask all international bodies to help” Jordan in its efforts.