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The language of love and dialogue

Pope Francis highlights the importance of the work of using the language of love and dialogue in the November edition of The Pope Video. He concludes by referring to his prayer intention this month, asking ‘That the language of love and dialogue may always prevail over the language of conflict’.

Commenting on The Pope Video this month, Fr Frédéric Fornos SJ, international director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network remarks:

In his message for the World Day of Peace, 1 January 2017, Pope Francis remarked that “violence is not the cure for our broken world”. He noted that “Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart”. Francis explained that Christ’s message “offers a radically positive approach”, explaining that “he unfailingly preached God’s unconditional love, which welcomes and forgives”. Jesus marked out the path of nonviolence, he added, pointing out that “he walked that path to the very end, to the cross, whereby he became our peace and put an end to hostility”. According to the Holy Father, “whoever accepts the Good News of Jesus is able to acknowledge the violence within and be healed by God’s mercy, becoming in turn an instrument of reconciliation”.

The Holy Father said that “the values of freedom, mutual respect and solidarity can be handed on from a tender age”. He highlighted how Pope Benedict XVI noted that “every educational setting can be a place of openness to the transcendent and to others; a place of dialogue, cohesiveness and attentive listening, where young people feel appreciated for their personal abilities and inner riches, and can learn to esteem their brothers and sisters”.

Writing on the Pope’s Intention in the November issue of Sacred Heart Messenger, the publication of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network in Ireland, Brian Lennon SJ, who works in Armagh with dialogue for diversity and community support, questions whether the language of love and dialogue has a place in conflict, and whether conflict can be a productive force in our lives. He explains that there is good and bad conflict. He cites examples of bad conflict such as “when we hurt someone unnecessarily, push our own egos onto others, act negatively out of fear, seek revenge and are too filled with pain to do anything except lash out”. He also refers to examples of good conflict including “when scientists struggle with each other about some scientific problem, when two people argue about how to stop global warming and have very different ideas about how to achieve that end”.

According to Brian “in the cases of good conflict those who disagree listen to each other, dialogue and are genuinely trying to solve a problem”. He remarks that “our intention is very important in deciding if conflict is good or bad: Am I looking for the truth. Am I trying to solve a problem? Or am I trying to hurt someone?” He fsays that the means we use is also important “am I using my power in a wrong way? Am I being violent without a just cause? Am I listening or just trying to control?” Brian outlines that Jesus “called us to love all others, and on the cross he forgave his enemies”, and remarks that “we have to do our best to follow him in all this, but we have to use our head at the same time”. He suggests that the ideal scenario is “if we can enter dialogue with the person we are in conflict with, which means listening to each other and hearing each other deeply”. He recommends that if both persons in a conflict can do this “then they should do it”. If not, he states, “it would help if they tried to move towards freedom for themselves”, explaining that, in this way, “they might find it easier to deal with those who have hurt them, and then they might be able to start wishing them well”.

Pat Gaffney, who is General Secretary of Pax Christi UK, an International Catholic Movement for Peace, reflects on the Pope’s Prayer Intention for November in Living Prayer, a booklet produced by Messenger Publications and Pope’s Worldwide Network in Ireland. He outlines that the language of peacemaking “is not easy” and “demands both honesty and dialogue”. He explains that Pope Francis “urges us not to be indifferent to others, to find ways of responding to injustice and brokenness.” and that “he recognises that their marginalisation and exclusion is a product of our time and lifestyle”. In this light he asks “what has gone wrong?” and ponders “who is causing the violence and who is cooperating with it?” Remarking that “this behaviour must stop”, he explains that “we want to bring about deep, lasting peace with justice, to find opportunities to work things out together”. According to Pat “this requires deep listening”, he remarks that “we want to appeal to the other to make better choices that will affirm the humanity of all those involved”. He points to the example of the two hands of nonviolence, the upright hand which says “stop, this is not acceptable” and “the open and outstretched hand which says ‘we need to talk, I am open to you, we have to face this together and change”.