On the 30th annual World Day of Prayer, Pope Francis met with leaders of the world’s religions to pray for peace, insisting that “God is a God of Peace.”
“There is no god of war,” Francis proclaimed during morning Mass, celebrated in the chapel of his residence in the Vatican. War is the work of the “Evil one, the devil, who wants to kill everyone,” the Pope said in preparation for a day dedicated to praying for peace.
Later in the morning, the 79-year-old pontiff flew by helicopter to the Umbrian hill town of Assisi, birthplace of Saint Francis, to meet with leaders of the major religions.
He ate lunch with ten war victims before sitting down for talks with faith leaders, including representatives of the Muslim and Buddhist faiths, Rome’s chief rabbi Riccardo Segni, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I.
Later in the day, the religious leaders will retire to pray in separate locations, before meeting again for a joint ceremony where messages of peace will be read aloud by the participants.
“Today, men and women of all religions will go to Assisi,” Francis recalled in the morning. “Not to make a show: simply to pray and pray for peace,” he said.
“The world is at war! The world is suffering!” Francis said in his homily, explaining the need to invite people of all religions and all men and women of good will “to pray for peace.”
The Pope also said that terror attacks suffered in the West, as horrible as they are, don’t light a candle to the ongoing violent conflicts in different parts of the world.
“We are frightened by acts of terrorism,” he said, “and they are terrible, very terrible.” Yet, “this is nothing compared with what happens in those countries where bombs fall day and night, killing children, old people, men and women,” he said.
We think war is far away, he said, but “No! It is very close, because war touches everyone. War begins in the heart,” he said.
Beyond religious differences, all must pray for peace, Francis continued.
“Because we are all children of God. And God is a God of peace. There is no god of war. The one who makes war is the Evil one, it is the devil, who wants to kill everybody.”
The Pope also suggested that all of humanity should experience shame for warfare, on behalf of all humanity.
“And, while we pray today, it would be nice for all of us to feel ashamed,” he said. “Ashamed of this: that human beings, our brothers and sisters, are capable of doing this.”
Last week the Pope said that “killing in the name of God is Satanic,” while celebrating a memorial for the martyred French priest Father Jacques Hamel, whose throat was slit in July by two jihadists of the Islamic State terror group.
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