Two different voices and two different experiences, those of His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem - who will be created a Cardinal by Pope Francis in Rome on September 30th - and Staffan de Mistura, a UN Ambassador and UN Envoy to conflict zones, both united by a single commitment: the difficult but fundamental one of mediation, balance, and diplomacy for the benefit of people, living in situations of conflict, and who are the main victims. An integral vision of peace, interreligious dialogue and the future of the United Nations are the center topics discussed at the meeting that took place on Saturday, September 23, 2023 in Bergamo, entitled 'Peace: between prophecy and diplomacy', moderated by the director of the local newspaper 'L'Eco di Bergamo' Alberto Ceresoli. The event was organized by Fondazione Papa Giovanni XXIII of Bergamo, Istituto Paolo VI and Opera per l'Educazione Cristiana of Brescia – the entities in Italy responsible for preserving the documents left by the two pontiffs, as well as study and enhance their teaching.
Pope John XXIII was a free living, genuine and authentic person. The encyclical Pacem in Terris has promoted an integral vision of peace, which is not only an agreement between rulers, expressed Mgr Pizzaballa during the meeting. “We cannot speak of peace without speaking of justice, rights, truth and forgiveness,” he added. Considering the situation present at the Middle East: “In the Holy Land there are two people who live next to each other but cannot coexist peacefully. The common denominator is the strong desire to end this situation, but when it comes to how, it diverges. Peace, therefore, is a continuous effort: it means working to recognize the existence of the other. We try to work at the ground level, by creating opportunities to meet, where possible. For example, in our schools, with the few entrepreneurs present, we try to create opportunities to give hope, life and allow for a personal development by speaking of peace, yet it is crucial that the dignity of familes is preserved; we must make sure that this dignity is real, concrete”. Then, the Patriarch spoke of interreligious dialogue, stressing that “the most effective is that which directly involves people and local religious authorities, who have direct relations with the territory: dialogue must be a place of encounter”.
The United Nations Ambassador, Mr. Staffan de Mistura added that “we must not wait until the war ends to speak of peace”. Since the 1970s, he has been sent by the United Nations to conflict zones around the world, and he expressed that despite his long involvement, hope prevails : “All wars end sooner or later. But the real problem is the suffering that in the meantime has afflicted the civilian population of both sides. We must use the word "peace" even in the midst of war. We must not give up working for peace or let ourselves be discouraged. Indeed, the people involved in the conflicts ask us not to forget them, not to lose hope”. Finally, while reflecting on the structure and importance of the United Nations work: “I still believe in the role of the UN,” he expressed. “It is not perfect, but if we annul it we will remain in the wilderness. The UN must be remodeled, not canceled. It must be reactivated, not paralyzed further”.
This meeting on peace is only the first of a series of events that will host His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa in Bergamo, his homeland: in the week following the Consistory the Patriarch will receive, from the City Council of Bergamo, Honorary citizenship titled 'John XXIII', which is given as a recognition to personalities who have distinguished themselves in promoting peace and dialogue. He will also celebrate a Mass in the Cathedral of the city. Finally, he will celebrate his creation as a Cardinal in the town where he was born, be Cologno al Serio (province of Bergamo). “I was born in the land of Bergamo. Here are my roots. And one thing that the Holy Land taught me very well is that you cannot give yourself prospects unless you have solid roots”.