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from issue no. 02 - 2004

The fortieth anniversary of SERMIG

No one is a stranger

The speech of the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the meeting with SERMIG. Vatican, 31 January 2004

by Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino

Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino with  Ernesto Olivero, during the audience in the  Paolo VI Aula the 31 January  2004

Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino with Ernesto Olivero, during the audience in the Paolo VI Aula the 31 January 2004

Distinguished authorities, most dear young people of SERMIG, I am happy to be here with you - on the day of the liturgical memory of Saint John Bosco, the saint of young people - to share your joy which found suggestive expression in the music and songs we have heard. I share with you also your dreams and your hopes in a world of peace and love. Your and our dearly beloved Ernesto, this time also going along with his charisma as founder, made us a gift of the University of Dialogue. It is an open and welcoming school in which we enroll in order to learn subjects rather unusual in school programs: dialogue, respect for others, communication. Those who only go in for monologue, who see in others possible rivals or enemies from whom to defend themselves, who don’t have confidence in the richness of communication between those who are different, is not a student ready to deal with the University of Dialogue.
Dialogue has a starting point which can’t be left out: recognition and respect for the dignity of the human person and his rights as well as the rights of all peoples. In this perspective, we can open ourselves confidently to dialogue, to the acceptance and understanding of the reasoning of others. The person open to dialogue enters into communication with others because, educated to live with and for others, he knows how to perceive their deep needs and accepts their good urges, or those capable of contributing to good. The person open to dialogue abolishes the very notion of “stranger”. The concept of “stranger” (from extra nos‚ outside us) contains the idea of difference, of he who is outside: it is a concept which transmits a feeling of separation, of division. In the University of Dialogue, on the other hand, one must learn to consider all as unique and unrepeatable creatures, loved by God, and to know that we are all brothers in the Lord.
A Colombian girl in the city of Turbo

A Colombian girl in the city of Turbo

Very dear young people, the most beautiful fruit of dialogue is solidarity. Let’s try to deepen our thinking on this essential point a little. Solidarity is the social incarnation of charity, of love, of the Christian agape and of friendship. It has many and different implementations: as I said, the first is respect for the other and his rights. Justice is therefore the first step to make in showing solidarity. There is no solidarity if the rights of people and groups are not recognized. But justice is not enough. The Holy Father, whom we will soon have the joy of meeting, in his message for World Peace Day this year, teaches us that justice must be completed by love. And love postulates dialogue. Man lives and grows in dialogue. From the fundamental one with God to that with other men. Dialogue permits a person to share the situation of his neighbor and, at the same time, to grow in the understanding of others and of himself, and to offer help to the people that he meets in life. So diversity, for the most part a reason of antagonism, can transform itself into a source of enrichment and of growth. Solidarity therefore requires the acceptance of diversity. In a world which is becoming, more so every day, multi-racial, this exigency of love becomes primary. To accept, understand, solidarize with those who are different, because of skin color, cultural origin, and therefore find themselves in difficulty, is not easy. In particular solidarity is not easy, between persons or peoples, when it is understood in the terms proposed by Sollicitudo rei socialis, because solidarity is entirely different from «a sentiment of vague compassion or of a superficial feeling of pity for the evils of many people, either near or far away» (no. 38 ). It, on the other hand, makes everyone feel responsible for everyone else so as to push us to a non-casual, determined commitment to the common good, which is the good of all and of everyone (cf. ibid ).To give support today means to be conscious of the interdependence of men and nations and to transform that phenomenon, ambivalent or negative until now, into a positive factor. It means to confront the structures of sin with force and efficacy, changing the spiritual attitudes, on which - the Holy father writes - «the relations of every man with himself, with his neighbor, with the human community, even the farthest away, and with nature» depend (ibid). This, then, is the solidarity proposed by the Church, a solidarity which becomes «the way to peace and at the same time to development» (cf. no. 39).
 Palestinians climbing the dividing wall on the West Bank

Palestinians climbing the dividing wall on the West Bank

Thank you, dear Ernesto, thank you, dear young people, for reminding us that the goods of peace and development reach us through a demanding work of solidarity, within a tight network, woven stubbornly, every day, with the threads of friendship, of love and of dialogue.

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