VATICAN CITY. Pope Francis called on all warring peoples to recognize fraternity as a “light that stops the night of conflicts.”
“To evoke brothers and sisters is to remind those who are fighting, and all of us, that the feeling of fraternity uniting us is stronger than hatred and violence,” the pope wrote in his message for the World Meeting on Human Fraternity at the Vatican June 10.
In a festive celebration of human fraternity, artists, activists and political leaders from around the globe gathered in St. Peter’s Square to call for worldwide peace and solidarity.
Among them were 29 Nobel Peace Prize recipients, including Juan Manuel Santos, former president of Colombia, and Óscar Arias Sánchez, former president of Costa Rica.
The Nobel laureates met with Vatican officials earlier in the day to draft a Declaration on Human Fraternity which was presented at the event and signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.
Presenting the document in St. Peter’s Square, Nadia Murad, recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to combat sexual violence in Iraq, called for an end to sexual violence, armed conflicts, nuclear arms, forced migration, ethnic cleansing, and the manipulative use of artificial intelligence and other technologies.
The declaration also called for countries to institute Ministries of Peace in their governments to promote peace initiatives.
“Never again war,” Murad said. “It is peace, justice, equality that will guide the fate of humankind.”
Cardinal Parolin said the document is an important step in building “a new world of peace and solidarity,” and encouraged all people to not “delegate realizing this document to others, each one of us must do their part and feel responsible.”
The Vatican’s Fratelli Tutti Foundation, which organized the event, said it will begin a campaign to get 1 billion people to sign the document.
Eight squares in countries around the world were connected to the Vatican via livestream, and far-flung participants shared their ideas on human fraternity from Congo, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Argentina, Israel, Japan, Peru, and a migrant rescue boat off the coast of Sicily.
One boy from Congo shared the challenge he had of embracing human fraternity after he was captured and kept in captivity for 18 months during his country’s civil war.
Pope Francis was originally scheduled to attend the event and meet with the Nobel laureates, but he remained in the hospital recovering from a June 7 operation to treat a hernia. His message to the attendees was read by Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, president of the Fratelli Tutti Foundation and archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica.
“In our world torn apart by violence and war, tweaks and adjustments are not enough,” Pope Francis wrote. “Only a great spiritual and social covenant born from the heart and centered on fraternity can restore the sacredness and inviolability of human dignity as the core of relationships.”
Yet, this is not achieved through “theories on fraternity,” but “concrete gestures and shared decisions that make a culture of peace.”
The pope encouraged the attendees after the event, to practice fraternity in their own lives by “reconciling with family members, friends and neighbors, praying for those who hurt us, recognizing and helping those in need, speaking words of peace at school, university or in society, ‘anointing’ with closeness those who feel alone.”
Pope Francis also encouraged people to “not tire of crying out ‘no to war,’ in the name of God and in the name of every man and woman who aspires for peace.”
In a show of fraternity triumphing over conflict, two young people, a Russian and a Ukrainian, shook hands in St. Peter’s Square. More than 100 young people, each wearing a large bib with their national flag on it, joined hands and embraced in the square to mimic Bernini’s colonnade that wraps around it – designed to represent arms that embrace pilgrims as they approach St. Peter’s Basilica.
Several artists performed for the crowd in St. Peter’s Square including Amii Stewart and Andrea Bocelli.
Bocelli, the famed Italian tenor, sang a rendition of St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Sun, which he said he wanted to dedicate to Pope Francis during his recovery.