Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.

Pope Francis: “Is it possible to walk the path of peace?”

September 15, 2013

When the pope was elected, after he accepted the office of the papacy he was asked what name he gave himself. No one names the pope. He is sovereign in his person, citizen of no country, responsible only to Christ and the church. The name chosen by Cardinal Bergoglio was a surprise because it’s not a Roman name. No pope had ever chosen the name Francis. He explained immediately that he was choosing it in honor of St. Francis of Assisi.

It’s a name that speaks of the pope’s freedom in an office encrusted with 2,000 years of custom. It’s also a name that sets out a program, placing first those who are poor and those working for peace among peoples and nations and between all people and the planet. He is a very straightforward man, often described as humble, certainly unpretentious. He is free because he is totally given to the Lord and his people. When I stepped up to congratulate him and promised him my loyalty after he was elected, I told him, “Holy Father, you’ve taken my name.” Now we share it.

All of us can share the pope’s words. In this column I would like to make my own his words on Sept. 7, spoken during the vigil of prayer and fasting for peace in St. Peter’s square in Rome. They are a reflection on the first chapter of the book of Genesis:

“When man thinks only of himself, of his own interests and places himself in the center, when he permits himself to be captivated by the idols of dominion and power, when he puts himself in God’s place, then all relationships are broken and everything is ruined; then the door opens to violence, indifference and conflict. This is precisely what the passage in the Book of Genesis seeks to teach us in the story of the Fall: Man enters into conflict with himself, he realizes that he is naked and he hides himself because he is afraid (cf. Gen 3: 10), he is afraid of God’s glance; he accuses the woman, she who is flesh of his flesh (cf. v. 12); he breaks harmony with creation, he begins to raise his hand against his brother to kill him. Can we say that from harmony he passes to “disharmony”? No, there is no such thing as “disharmony”; there is either harmony or we fall into chaos, where there is violence, argument, conflict, fear. ...

“We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves. As if it were normal, we continue to sow destruction, pain, death! Violence and war lead only to death, they speak of death!

“And at this point I ask myself: Is it possible to walk the path of peace? Can we get out of this spiral of sorrow and death? Can we learn once again to walk and live in the ways of peace? Invoking the help of God, under the maternal gaze of the Salus Populi Romani, Queen of Peace, I say: Yes, it is possible for everyone! From every corner of the world tonight, I would like to hear us cry out: Yes, it is possible for everyone! Or even better, I would like for each one of us, from the least to the greatest, including those called to govern nations, to respond: Yes, we want it! My Christian faith urges me to look to the Cross. How I wish that all men and women of good will would look to the Cross if only for a moment! There, we can see God’s reply: Violence is not answered with violence, death is not answered with the language of death. In the silence of the Cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue and peace is spoken. This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions, and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: Violence and war are never the way to peace! Let everyone be moved to look into the depths of his or her conscience and listen to that word which says: Leave behind the self-interest that hardens your heart, overcome the indifference that makes your heart insensitive towards others, conquer your deadly reasoning, and open yourself to dialogue and reconciliation. Look upon your brother’s sorrow — I think of the children: look upon these… look at the sorrow of your brother, stay your hand and do not add to it, rebuild the harmony that has been shattered; and all this achieved not by conflict but by encounter! May the noise of weapons cease! War always marks the failure of peace; it is always a defeat for humanity. Brothers and Sisters, forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation — these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world! Let us pray this evening for reconciliation and peace, let us work for reconciliation and peace, and let us all become, in every place, men and women of reconciliation and peace.”

May the pope’s words shape our hearts in these dangerous days. God bless you.


  • pope francis
  • middle east