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Pope Francis: Grassroots role in peacebuilding

In the preface to the book “Justice and Peace Will Embrace,” Pope Francis emphasized that the creation of peace extends beyond the decisions and treaties of world leaders. 

He said that every individual can foster peace in their daily lives, whether at home, in the workplace, or within their communities, according to a Vatican News report. 

The book, published by the Vatican Publishing House LEV and L’Arena, coincided with the Pope’s upcoming visit to Verona on May 18, and focused on justice and peace.

Pope Francis highlighted the connection between justice and peace, saying, “If justice is lacking, peace is threatened; without peace, justice is compromised.” 

He explained that true justice involves giving what is due to God and others, aligning with the Hebrew concept of “shalom,” which signifies the fullness of life and prosperity rather than merely the absence of conflict.

The Pope addressed the root cause of conflict: selfishness. He argues that prioritizing personal gain over collective well-being leads to societal discord. 

“All selfishness is unjust,” he writes, warning that systemic selfishness can transform neighbors into adversaries. “In order to defend our interests (or those we presume to be such), we are ready to do anything, even to oppress our neighbor, who from being a neighbor becomes an adversary and therefore an enemy to be humiliated, knocked down, and defeated.”

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In his reflections, Pope Francis drew on the teachings of Fr. Romano Guardini, a significant figure during the oppressive era of Nazi Germany. 

Guardini’s philosophical and spiritual insights inspired the White Rose group, whose nonviolent resistance against Nazism was grounded in his writings. 

The Pope honored the memory of these young activists who sacrificed their lives for conscience and freedom.

Pope Francis also recounted the story of Fr. Domenico Mercante and Private Leonardo Dallasega, two individuals who exemplified the intersection of justice and peace through their sacrifice during World War II. 

Fr. Mercante, known for protecting civilians during the Nazi occupation, and Dallasega, a German soldier who refused to execute the priest, were both killed. Their actions embody the Christian ideal of self-sacrifice for the greater good. According to an eyewitness, Dallasega said, “I am Catholic, father of four children, they cannot shoot a priest!”

Reflecting on these historical examples, Pope Francis highlighted the meaning of Christian sacrifice: “giving one’s life for others, even at the cost of one’s own.” 

He urged the faithful to embody this spirit in their everyday actions, whether through acts of forgiveness, enduring injustice, or supporting those in need. 

“Maybe we will not be forced to shed blood to profess our faith, as happens still today in many parts of the world for many of our Christian brothers, but it is in the small things that we are called to bear witness to the strength peace of the cross of Christ and the new life that is born from it.”

The pontiff called for the construction of peace through small, meaningful gestures. He encouraged helping migrants, visiting the elderly, respecting the environment, and welcoming new life as acts of peace. 

These “small pieces of peace,” he said, can collectively build a more just and harmonious world. “We can build peace by helping a migrant who is begging on the street, by visiting an elderly person who is alone and has no one to talk to, by multiplying gestures of care and respect towards our poor planet Earth, so mistreated by our exploitative selfishness, welcoming every unborn child who comes into the world, a gesture which was an authentic act of peace for Saint Mother Teresa.”

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