Pope urges young Russians to sow seeds of peace

Pope Francis meets with Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, president of the Italian bishops’ conference and the pope’s envoy for peace in Ukraine, in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Aug. 24, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Although Russia’s continuing war on Ukraine may make peace seem an impossible dream, Pope Francis urged young Russian Catholics to sow seeds of reconciliation and peace however they can.

“I wish you, young Russians, the vocation to be artisans of peace in the midst of so many conflicts, in the midst of so many polarization on all sides, which plague our world,” the pope said during an hourlong video call Aug. 25 with 400 participants in a Russian Catholic youth festival.

“I invite you to be sowers, to sow seeds of reconciliation, little seeds that in this winter of war will not sprout in the frozen ground for the time being, but will blossom in a future spring,” he told them.

“Have the courage to replace fears with dreams. Replace fears with dreams. Replace fears with dreams,” Pope Francis repeated. “Do not be stewards of fears but entrepreneurs of dreams. Allow yourself the luxury of dreaming big!”

The Vatican press office published the pope’s prepared remarks to the gathering in St. Petersburg Aug. 26, but he also responded to questions from some participants, including a young woman who asked how diplomacy could end the war in Ukraine. His response was reported by Fides, the news agency of the Dicastery for Evangelization.

Diplomacy does not ignore conflict, but it strives to foster dialogue and unity, Pope Francis told her. “Diplomacy advances following a path where unity is superior to conflict. Real diplomacy is not afraid of conflicts, but it does not underline them: it takes conflicts, and, with conflicts, it moves forward through dialogue and prayer.”

“Diplomacy is not easy. Diplomats do so much good for humanity. It is not easy work, but it is very fruitful,” the pope said. “And this, both with regard to the Ukrainian situation and with other countries. Diplomacy always builds, it does not destroy.”

In his prepared remarks, Pope Francis focused on some of the themes he had spoken about in Lisbon, Portugal, earlier in the month during World Youth Day, including his insistence that in the church there is room for everyone.

“How many wounds, how much despair can be healed where we feel welcomed. And the church welcomes us,” he said. “That is why I dream of a church where no one is superfluous, where no one is extra.”

He pleaded with people not to treat the church as some kind of “customs office” where some are allowed in, and others are not.

“Entrance is free,” he said. “And then, let everyone hear Jesus’ invitation to follow him, to see how he stands before God; for this journey there are the teachings and the sacraments.”

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