Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

Destroy hatred, not enemies, to bring peace, papal preacher says

By  Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service
  • December 13, 2014

VATICAN CITY - Peace does not come from wiping out enemies, it comes from destroying all hatred with prayer, dialogue and friendship, including in the Church and within the Roman Curia, said the preacher of the papal household.

Jesus shows that peace is the fruit of a particular kind of victory — "victories over oneself, not over others, spiritual, not military, victories," Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa told Pope Francis and top Vatican officials.

Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, gave the second of his 2014 Advent reflections to the Pope and his closest aides Dec. 12, focusing on the gift of peace and the Christian duty to be peacemakers.

Christians have an obligation to be living examples of peace, especially toward their fellow Catholics, he said. A spirit of fraternity must permeate every setting, be it religious congregations, the Synod of Bishops or the Roman Curia.

When Jesus said, "You are all brothers," if that did not "apply within the Church to the closest circle of her ministers, to whom does it apply?" the Capuchin priest asked.

The Holy Spirit has the power to inspire disputing sides and transform them completely: pulling them away from their own self-interests and vanity and centring them back on Christ, he said.

"Every initiative, including the most spiritual as, for instance, the new evangelization, can be either Babel or Pentecost," he said. "It is Babel if with it, everyone seeks to make a name for himself; it is Pentecost if, despite the natural desire to succeed and to receive approval, one constantly rectifies one's intentions, putting the glory of God and the good of the Church above one's own desires."

The Holy Spirit does not eradicate differences, he said; people are free to express their convictions with respect and freedom, have a debate and come to a resolution by announcing, as said in the Acts of the Apostles, "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us."

"What a gift it would be for the Church if (the Curia) were an example of fraternity! It is already, at least much more than the world and its media would have us believe," he said, "but it can always be more so.

"We have seen that the diversity of opinions must not be an insurmountable obstacle," he said.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, he said, everyone can give priority to Jesus and the good of the Church, and as St. Paul told the Philippians: "Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but (also) everyone for those of others," (2:3-4).

Cantalamessa said he was sure St. Paul's words "also express the desire of the Holy Father toward his collaborators and of us all."

This Gospel method of destroying hatred rather than destroying enemies "is also helpful in the political realm," he said, recalling Abraham Lincoln's reaction to criticism that he was being too courteous toward his political adversaries when he was advised instead to try to destroy them. The U.S. president was said to have replied, "Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?" Cantalamessa said.

Unfortunately, he said, so many conflicts in the world today are driven by "the will and secret hope to arrive one day at the destruction of the enemy."

But such an approach only makes things worse, the Capuchin said. What Tertullian said about the blood of persecuted Christians being the seed of the Church is "valid also for enemies: the blood of enemies is also the seed of other enemies; rather than destroying them, it multiplies them."

Prayer, dialogue and understanding are necessary for building peace in the world between religions, nations and people in society, he said.

Although violence may be absent, peace is not present when one side dominates, suppresses or silences others, he added.

The values of justice and respecting human rights and dignity "cannot be suppressed under the guise of creating a consensus on paper or a transient peace for a contented minority," the preacher said, quoting Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel).

Peace must be practised concretely "at the local level," starting with each individual, even with "a simple handshake," he said.

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