Peace in politics, in the world starts in people’s hearts, says Pope Francis

18 May 2024

By Contributor

By Carol Glatz

Pope Francis Fraternity and Peace in politics
Pope Francis shakes hands with children during a meeting dedicated to children and future generations at a conference on human fraternity in the Synod Hall at the Vatican May 11, 2024. Photo: CNS / Vatican Media.

Believing security can be obtained through war and fear is a great deception, Pope Francis has said.

“To guarantee lasting peace, we must return to a recognition of our common humanity and place fraternity at the centre of peoples’ lives,” he told participants in a conference on human fraternity.

“Political peace needs peace of hearts, so that people can meet in the confidence that life always triumphs over all forms of death,” he said in his talk during a late morning audience at the Vatican on 11 May.

The Holy Father met with some 350 participants of the World Meeting on Human Fraternity being held on 10 and 11 May.

Organised by the Vatican’s Fratelli Tutti Foundation, the conference brought Nobel laureates, government officials, scientists, experts, athletes and artists to a series of roundtable discussions across Rome and at the Vatican to discuss specific themes aimed at strengthening solidarity and peace.

Pope Francis attends a meeting dedicated to children and future generations at a conference on human fraternity in the Synod Hall at the Vatican May 11, 2024. Photo: CNS / Vatican Media.

Those attending the conference included: New York Mayor Eric Adams; Muhammad Yunus, recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize; Graça Machel Mandela, former first lady of both South Africa and Mozambique; the former quarterback, Tom Brady; and NASA administrator, Bill Nelson.

US country singer, Garth Brooks, was scheduled to be part of a late evening concert held in front of St Peter’s Basilica on 11 May.

In his address, the Holy Father quoted the Rev Martin Luther King Jr, who said, “We’ve learned to fly the air like birds, we’ve learned to swim the seas like fish, and yet we haven’t learned to walk the Earth as brothers and sisters.”

“War is a deception. War is always a defeat, as is the idea of international security based on the deterrent of fear,” Pope Francis said. “It is another deception.”

“In a planet in flames, you have gathered with the intention of reiterating your ‘no’ to war and ‘yes’ to peace, bearing witness to the humanity that unites us and makes us recognise each other as brothers and sisters, in the reciprocal gift of the respective cultural differences,” he told conference participants.

One of the conference’s aims was to renew the Declaration on Human Fraternity released at the first conference in Rome in 2023 and to draft a new “Charter of Humanity” outlining a “grammar” or code of choices and behaviours needed to build fraternal coexistence in a world marked by uncertainty and fear.

Pope Francis caresses the face of a child during a meeting dedicated to children and future generations at a conference on human fraternity in the Synod Hall at the Vatican May 11, 2024. Photo: CNS / Vatican Media.

In his speech, the Holy Father underlined the importance of compassion and he encouraged everyone “to make this spirituality of fraternity grow, and to promote, through your diplomatic action, the role of multilateral bodies.”

Only by recognising everyone is part of a common humanity and putting fraternity at the centre of peoples’ lives “will we succeed in developing a model of coexistence capable of giving the human family a future,” he said.

Later in the afternoon, the Holy Father attended a special roundtable, dedicated to children and future generations, held in the Vatican Synod Hall.

The moderator told the Holy Father that a group of special “scientists” had to be introduced before they could start the meeting in the half-empty hall. As the music to “A Thousand Years” played, scores of children walked into the hall wearing crowns made of laurel leaves.

They held paper leaves with words of wisdom written on them and handmade drawings they gave the pope. Some stayed with the Holy Father, sitting next to him behind the dais.

In an informal exchange, Pope Francis asked the children what happiness was and where it could be found. “I love you very much!” was the first and fourth response.

Those who kept on topic answered, “to be united together,” “to be part of a family,” when everyone is doing well, by loving one another, by staying in touch with God and when there is peace.

Peace, they said, can be found when people speak nicely to one another, and insults only cause unhappiness.

Pope Francis then asked them if they understood there were children in the world suffering from hunger and war, and whether they thought the children on “the other side” of a war were enemies.

“No!” they shouted, with one explaining the reason was that war “is not their fault” and “all children are part of one family.”

One child asked the pope to pray for his grandmother, and the pope led everyone in praying the Hail Mary for everyone’s grandparents, ending with the cheer “Long live grandparents!” and explaining how the future depends on young and old working together.

The Holy Father signed a copy of a declaration crafted by the children expressing what fraternity means to them, and he blessed a relic of Blessed Pino Puglisi of Palermo, who spoke out against the Mafia and helped underprivileged children.

The priest was murdered in 1993 by order of local Mafia bosses. The relic was a small Gospel that had been buried with him and had remained intact and found when his body was exhumed.