Friday, September 30, 2016

Pope in Georgia: dialogue and discussion in a world of violent extremism

In the current historical moment in which there are violent extremists "with no shortage of violent extremism that manipulates and distorts civic and religious principles", all disputes that arise should be resolved by contact and dialogue between states and within society .
These the words of Pope Francis who has arrived in Tbilisi, Georgia, the first stop of a two stage journey to the Caucasus still gripped by contrasts and conflicts.  From the outset Pope Francis has spoken of peace, the central theme of a journey that has as its motto "Peace to you ".

On his arrival in Tbilisi at 15 (local time) Francis was welcomed (see photo) by the President of the Republic Giorgi Margvelashvili, and the Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II. Two children in traditional dress, gifted the Pope a basket of grapes. The welcoming ceremony did not include speeches, which were pronounced during the next courtesy visit to the President of Georgia at the presidential palace. Here, after a private meeting, the Pope and the President saluted the honor guard in the palace courtyard, where Georgian authorities and the accredited diplomatic corps were gathered.

"The centuries-old history of your country - the Pope said - shows that it is rooted in the values expressed in its culture, language and traditions.  This places your country fully and in a particular way within the bedrock of European civilization; at the same time, as is evident from your geographical location, Georgia is to a great extent a natural bridge between Europe and Asia, a link that facilitates communication and relations between peoples. Through the centuries this has facilitated commercial ties as well as dialogue and the exchange of ideas and experiences between diverse cultures". 

“Twenty-five years have passed since Georgia’s independence was proclaimed.  During this period when Georgia regained its full liberty, it built and strengthened its democratic institutions and sought ways to guarantee the most inclusive and authentic development possible.  All of this was not without great sacrifice, which the people faced courageously in order to ensure their longed-for freedom.  I hope that the path of peace and development will advance with the consolidated commitment of all sectors of society, so as to create conditions for stability, justice and respect for the rule of law, hence promoting growth and greater opportunities for all.”

"The peaceful coexistence among all peoples and states in the region is the indispensable and prior condition for such authentic and enduring progress.  This requires increasing mutual esteem and consideration, which can never lay aside respect for the sovereign rights of every country within the framework of international law.  So as to forge paths leading to lasting peace and true cooperation, we must recall that the relevant principles for a just and stable relationship between states are at the service of a practical, ordered and peaceful coexistence among nations. Indeed, in far too many areas of the world, there seems to be a dominant way of thinking which hinders keeping legitimate differences and disagreements – which can always arise – within a climate of civilized dialogue where reason, moderation and responsibility can prevail.  This is all the more necessary in the present historical moment, with no shortage of violent extremism that manipulates and distorts civic and religious principles, and subjugates them to the dark designs of domination and death".

"We should wholeheartedly give priority to human beings in their actual circumstances and pursue every attempt to prevent differences from giving rise to violence that can cause ruinous calamity for people and for society.  Far from being exploited as grounds for turning discord into conflict and conflict into interminable tragedy, distinctions along ethnic, linguistic, political or religious lines can and must be for everyone a source of mutual enrichment in favour of the common good.  This requires that everyone make full use of their particular identity, having the possibility, above all else, to coexist peacefully in their homeland, or freely to return to that land, if for some reason they have been forced to leave it.  I hope that civil authorities will continue to show concern for the situation of these persons, and that they will fully commit themselves to seeking tangible solutions, in spite of any unresolved political questions.  It takes far-sightedness and courage to recognize the authentic good of peoples, and to pursue this good with determination and prudence.  In this regard, it is essential to keep before our eyes the suffering of others, in order to proceed with conviction along the path which, though slow and laborious, is also captivating and freeing, and leads us towards peace".

"The Catholic Church, which has been present for centuries in this country and has distinguished itself in a particular way for its commitment to human promotion and to charitable works, shares the joys and concerns of the Georgian people, and is resolved to offer its contribution for the well-being and peace of the nation, by actively cooperating with the authorities and civil society.  It is my ardent desire that the Catholic Church may continue to make its own authentic contribution to the growth of Georgian society, thanks to the common witness to the Christian tradition which unites us, its commitment to those most in need, and the renewed and strengthened dialogue with the ancient Georgian Orthodox Church and the other religious communities of the country. May God bless Georgia and give her peace and prosperity!"

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