What is peace?

May 14, 2015

Pope Francis greets children of the "Peace Factory". On Monday May 11, 2015 Holy Father met a group of some 7 thousand children , in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. The focus of the special audience was peace: how to build it, and how to keep it. Sponsored by the “Fabbrica della pace” – or, “Peace Factory” – an interdisciplinary, non-governmental organization that promotes integration, multiethnic and cross-cultural understanding through education, starting in the years of primary school.

During the course of the gathering, Pontiff answered questions from his young guests on a range of subjects, from how he got along with his siblings growing up, to why the powerful so often fail to care for the needs of the poor and suffering – especially as far as education is concerned – to what to do when one of our fellows refuses to make peace with us, despite our efforts.

One boy asked: “What is peace?” Saying there is need for more “peace factories,” the Pope expressed grief over the number of “war factories” in the world. “War is the fruit of hate, of selfishness, of the desire to possess more and more, and to dominate others.” In contrast, members of the Peace Factory are committed to “defending the culture of inclusion, of reconciliation and of encounter.”

One little girl asked if the Pope argues with his family like she argues with her sister: He replied, that we all argue, but said we should end our day with peace. Pope Francis also spoke about peace in more serious contexts, touching on themes such as greed in countries torn by war and conflict. “Why do many powerful people do not want peace?” the Pontiff asked, responding to a question posed by an Egyptian child as to why the powerful do not support schools: “Because they live on war!” “And it is for this reason that many people do not want peace,” he said: “They benefit more from war!” They benefit from the sale of weapons, they live on “the industry of death” and the evil brought about by the greed for more money. The war is highly profitable “industry of death” is driven by greed, which “is very harmful,” he said. “When we see that everything revolves around money — the economic system revolves around money and not around the person, men and women, but money — so much is sacrificed and war is waged in order to defend the money,” the Pope said.

The Pope heard a question from a child whose father was serving time in prison and a boy who was being held in a juvenile detention facility. The boy asked if the Pope agreed kids should be kept in jail. “No, I do not agree,” he said. People need to help those who make mistakes pick themselves back up “with education, with love, with being close.” Prison is the easy way out for society because it is a way “to forget about those who suffer,” he said.

Pope Francis then touched on the theme of equality, having been asked if everyone is equal today. “We are all equal – everyone!” he said, but there are those who do not recognize this equality, and that we all have the same rights. A society which does not see this, he said, “it is unjust... and where there is no justice, there is no peace.”

The Holy Father concluded his session with a call for conversion, which he placed as a request that each and every one of those present – young and old, themselves including – make some small change for the better in attitude or behavior. “Whenever we do something together,” said Pope Francis, “something good, something beautiful, everyone changes – all of us change in some way – and this does us good,” he said. “All of us today should leave this encounter changed in some small way: but for the worse, or for the better?” he asked.

“For the better! For the better!” they cried, and Pope Francis agreed. He thanked them and blessed them, and sent them on their way.

Vatican Radio


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