Love is stronger!
Peace is possible, therefore it is a must; the peace march organized by the Sant’Egidio Community underlines the call for peace from our Holy Father
ROME. Father Alberto Eronti. The first day of the year has been consecrated by the Holy Father as the WORLD DAY OF PEACE. In these moments in which the Church and the world have watched with shock the murder of the Apostolic Nuncio in Burundi, and in which the terrorist attacks in Baghdad and Indonesia continue to remind us of ongoing wars and lack of peace, Pope John Paul II has invoked the protection of the Virgin Mary. The Pope has asked her to support and accompany mankind along this arduous road, and to zealously rebuild peace.
In 1968, Pope Paul VI established January 1st, the feast of the divine motherhood of Mary, as the World Day of Peace. Pope Montini’s thoughts and feelings about this day were that it should be a day of prayer for the immense gift of peace. Pope John Paul II has not only continued along this path but has also pursued it with particular vigor.
Among the movements in the Church, it was the Community of Sant’Egidio, founded precisely in 1968, that took the idea of peace as part of its charismatic mission. This commitment has been undertaken with great faithfulness and coherence: the community has martyrs of peace – young people who have died while working for peace in conflict zones. As part of their "solidarity with the Pope and the Church" they have taken on the responsibility of holding a march for peace every January 1st. And so, at 10:30 on this first day of January, the piazza in front of the Chiesa Nuova (‘New Church’), located just over 1km from St. Peter’s Square, was packed. One could easily make out a wide variety of races and cultures that were present there. In order that there be no ‘forgotten wars’, children from the arco iris (‘rainbow movement’) and adults carried thirty-seven banners with the names of the countries where there are armed conflicts.
Everything is lost with war, everything is attainable with peace.
Before the march began, there were four speakers. I was impressed by the testimony of a young Muslim woman from Somalia who briefly told her tragic story: her parents died during the civil war; her brothers, sisters and nephews were scattered all over Africa and the Middle East. Nobody wanted to emigrate, but they had to do it simply if they wanted to survive. To them, emigrate was not a free choice; they had to do it because in their home country there was no future, and so they had to search elsewhere. While I was listening to this Somali woman, some of the Pope’s words came to my mind: ‘War is a journey with no return’, ‘Everything is lost with war, everything is attainable with peace’, ‘War is the source of indignity, misery, destruction’, …
Sant’Egidio: ‘Peace on the whole earth’
At the beginning of the march, it was announced that on this day the march for peace was taking place in more than 70 countries and in more than 200 cities, in spiritual union with the one initiated at the heart of the Church. The theme for the march was ‘Peace on the whole earth’. In many places, the Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign of the Pilgrim Mother, united to this initiative, invited people to say the rosary for peace, such as in Resistencia, Argentina. In Dietershausen, Germany, the Sisters of Mary have invited the faithful to pray daily to the Prince of Peace for peace in front of the manger, between Christmas and January 6th.
The march entered St. Peter’s Square a few minutes before the recital of the Angelus, and most of the pilgrims sat near the crib (built of life-size images at the center of the square, in front of the obelisk). The Pope appeared punctually at the window of his apartment and began his meditation as follows: "May the Lord shine His face upon you and bless you with peace". This blessing, which is used in the Old Testament sounded powerfully in our ears, and a strong response was heard: "Yes, Lord, give us peace, peace…" The Pope recalled that the gift of peace was bound to Mary, whose divine motherhood we were celebrating, and that we should turn our eyes to her, she from whom we beg the gift of peace. This was the same gift she gave the world in the fragility of her Child, the Father’s beloved Son. Needless to say, I received the papal blessing remembering the Schoenstatt Family, and especially the Burundi Family.
The peace that Jesus gives
When the Angelus was finished, and while the thousands of pilgrims were dispersing, I talked with a small group of missionaries who were working in Africa. On the way home, and as a result of what I had just heard, I continued meditating on phrases from the New Testament, and others from Pope John Paul II. It is clear that Jesus speaks about two kinds of peace: the one He gives, and the one the world gives. What is the difference? The one that Jesus gives is lasting, forever; the peace of the world is fragile because is rests on people’s goodwill. The peace of the world can be permanent if it unites, if it binds itself to the peace that Jesus gives. It is not men who are the final guarantors of peace, but God. But the peace of Jesus is founded on His Person and His Love. Saint John puts the following words on Jesus’ lips: "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. As I have loved you, so also you should love one another" (13:34). But these words are more understandable if we recall two statements, one from St. John and the other from St. Paul: "We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. Whoever does not love, remains in death" (1 Jn 3:14); "If I do not have love, I am nothing" (1 Co 13:2). Death turns the body into nothingness. Not to love is to be dead in the soul, and thus, to have an ‘interior zone’ of nothingness.
The Mother of Peace
But, as the Pope explains, it is necessary to ‘pass’ from death to life in order to plead for the gift of forgiveness and to resist the temptation for revenge. The capacity to forgive and to resist revenge implies ‘a greater love’ (Jn 15:13), the one Jesus gives us if we live in the Covenant with Him. The lack of love, says the Pontiff, ‘destroys me and destroys others’, from here the need for this ‘passing’, this permanent ‘Passover’: ‘passing from death to life’, a ‘passing’ that is achieved in love.
The media, in reviewing the year 2003, have invaded us with scenes of violence. Yes, violence hits us in colors, with dislocated faces, with a multitude of men and women crying for their loved ones, others crying out for revenge, while others cover their faces and bear arms. How to stop this spiral of violence? I recall, once again, the words of Pope John Paul II in Chile, when he replied to the calls for violence, with his own cry: "LOVE IS STRONGER, IT IS MUCH STRONGER…!" Yes, decisively, love is stronger, and we imbibe it and learn to live in the Covenant of Love with Mary, for she is not only the Mother of Jesus but also the Mother of Peace, the Mother of the most beautiful and pure LOVE. For that reason, and using our Father’s words, we say ‘to the most beautiful’:
Your Shrine is our Bethlehem ,
You have graciously established Schoenstatt
Jubilantly place the Lord into my soul anew,
Translation: Vera Gamez, Austin, Texas, USA; Simon Donnelly, Rome, Italy.
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