Wednesday 25 August 1999


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. As we continue our reflection on conversion, sustained by the certainty of the Father's love, today we will focus our attention on the meaning of sin, both personal and social.

Let us first look at Jesus' attitude, since he came to deliver mankind from sin and from Satan's influence.

The New Testament strongly emphasizes Jesus' authority over demons, which he cast out "by the finger of God" (
Lc 11,20). In the Gospel perspective, the deliverance of those possessed by demons (cf. Mc 5,1-20) acquires a broader meaning than mere physical healing in that the physical ailment is seen in relation to an interior one. The disease from which Jesus sets people free is primarily that of sin. Jesus himself explains this when he heals the paralytic: ""That you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins' he said to the paralytic "I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home'" (Mc 2,10-11). Even before working cures, Jesus had already conquered sin by overcoming the "temptations" which the devil presented to him during the time he spent in the wilderness after being baptized by John (cf. Mc 1,12-13 Mt 4,1-11 Lc 4,1-13).

To fight the sin that lurks in us and around us, we must follow in Jesus' footsteps and learn the sense of his constant "yes" to the Father's plan of love. This "yes" demands our total commitment, but we would not be able to say it without the help of that grace which Jesus himself obtained for us by his work of redemption.

2. Now, looking at the world today we have to admit that there is a marked decline in the consciousness of sin. Because of widespread religious indifference or the rejection of all that right reason and Revelation tell us about God, many men and women lack a sense of God's Covenant and of his commandments. All too often the human sense of responsibility is blurred by a claim to absolute freedom, which it considers threatened and compromised by God, the supreme legislator.

43 The current tragic situation, which seems to have foresaken certain fundamental moral values, is largely due to the loss of the sense of sin. This fact makes us aware of the great distance to be covered by the new evangelization. Consciences must recover the sense of God, of his mercy, of the gratuitousness of his gifts to be able to recognize the gravity of sin which sets man against his Creator. Personal freedom should be recognized and defended as a precious gift of God, resisting the tendency to lose it in the structures of social conditioning or to remove it from its inalienable reference to the Creator.

3. It is also true that personal sin always has a social impact. While he offends God and harms himself, the sinner also becomes responsible for the bad example and negative influences linked to his behaviour. Even when the sin is interior, it still causes a worsening of the human condition and diminishes that contribution which every person is called to make to the spiritual progress of the human community.

In addition to all this, the sins of individuals strengthen those forms of social sin which are actually the fruit of an accumulation of many personal sins. Obviously the real responsibility lies with individuals, given that the social structure as such is not the subject of moral acts. As the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia recalls: "Whenever the Church speaks of situations of sin, or when she condemns as social sins certain situations or the collective behaviour of certain social groups, big or small, or even of whole nations and blocs of nations, she knows and she proclaims that such cases of social sin are the result of the accumulation and concentration of many personal sins.... The real responsibility, then, lies with individuals" (
RP 16).

It is nevertheless an indisputable fact, as I have often pointed out, that the interdependence of social, economic and political systems creates multiple structures of sin in today's world. (cf. Sollicitudo rei socialis, SRS 36 Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 1869). Evil exerts a frightening power of attraction which causes many types of behaviour to be judged "normal" and "inevitable". Evil then grows, having devastating effects on consciences, which become confused and even incapable of discernment. If one then thinks of the structures of sin that hinder the development of the peoples most disadvantaged from the economic and political standpoint (cf. Sollicitudo rei socialis, SRS 37), one might almost surrender in the face of a moral evil which seems inevitable. So many people feel powerless and bewildered before an overwhelming situation from which there seems no escape. But the proclamation of Christ's victory over evil gives us the certainty that even the strongest structures of evil can be overcome and replaced by "structures of good" (cf. ibid., SRS 39).

4. The "new evangelization" faces this challenge. It must work to ensure that people recover the awareness that in Christ evil can be conquered with good. People must be taught a sense of personal responsibility, closely connected with moral obligations and the consciousness of sin. The path of conversion entails the exclusion of all connivance with those structures of sin which, today in particular, influence people in life's various contexts.

The Jubilee offers individuals and communities a providential opportunity to walk in this direction by promoting an authentic "metanoia", that is, a change of mentality that will help create ever more just and human structures for the benefit of the common good.

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:

I am pleased to greet the members of the Shingon Buddhist Delegation from Japan. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Japan and the United States, I cordially invoke God's blessings of joy and peace.

1 September 1999


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. "Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers.... For we have sinned and transgressed by departing from you, and we have done every kind of evil. Your commandments we have not heeded or observed" (
Da 3,26 Da 3,29-30). This is how the Jews prayed after the Exile (cf. also Ba 2,11-13), accepting responsibility for the sins committed by their fathers. The Church imitates their example and also asks forgiveness for the historical sins of her children.

In our century, in fact, the Second Vatican Council gave an important impetus to the Church's renewal, so that as a community of the saved she might become an ever more vivid image of Jesus' message to the world. Faithful to the teaching of the most recent Council, the Church is more and more aware that she can offer the world a consistent witness to the Lord only through the continual purification of her members. Therefore, "at once holy and always in need of purification, [she] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal" (Lumen gentium, LG 8).

2. Recognition of the community implications of sin spurs the Church to ask forgiveness for the "historical" sins of her children. She is prompted to do this by the valuable opportunity offered by the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 which, following the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, intends to turn a new page of history by overcoming the obstacles that still divide human beings and Christians in particular.

In my Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, I therefore asked that at the end of this second millennium "the Church should become more fully conscious of the sinfulness of her children, recalling all those times in history when they departed from the spirit of Christ and his Gospel and, instead of offering to the world the witness of a life inspired by the values of faith, indulged in ways of thinking and acting which were truly forms of counter-witness and scandal" (Tertio millennio adveniente, TMA 33).

3. The recognition of historical sins presupposes taking a stand in relation to events as they really happened and which only a serene and complete historical reconstruction can reveal. On the other hand, the judging of historical events cannot prescind from a realistic study of the conditioning caused by individual cultural contexts, before attributing specific moral responsibilities to individuals.

The Church is certainly not afraid of the truth that emerges from history and is ready to acknowledge mistakes wherever they have been identified, especially when they involve the respect that is owed to individuals and communities. She is inclined to mistrust generalizations that excuse or condemn various historical periods. She entrusts the investigation of the past to patient, honest, scholarly reconstruction, free from confessional or ideological prejudices, regarding both the accusations brought against her and the wrongs she has suffered.

When they have been established by serious historical research, the Church feels it her duty to acknowledge the sins of her members and to ask God and her brethren to forgive them. This request for pardon must not be understoood as an expression of false humility or as a denial of her 2,000-year history, which is certainly richly deserving in the areas of charity, culture and holiness. Instead she responds to a necessary requirement of the truth, which, in addition to the positive aspects, recognizes the human limitations and weaknesses of the various generations of Christ's disciples.

4. The approach of the Jubilee calls attention to certain types of sin, past and present, for which we particularly need to ask the Father's mercy.

I am thinking first of all of the painful reality of the division among Christians. The wounds of the past, certainly not without sins on both sides, continue to scandalize the world. A second act of repentance concerns the acquiescence given to intolerance and even the use of violence in the service of truth (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente, TMA 35). Although many acted here in good faith, it was certainly not evangelical to think that the truth should be imposed by force. Then there is the lack of discernment by many Christians in situations where basic human rights were violated. The request for forgiveness applies to whatever should have been done or was passed over in silence because of weakness or bad judgement, to what was done or said hesitantly or inappropriately.

On this and other points "the consideration of mitigating factors does not exonerate the Church from the obligation to express profound regret for the weaknesses of so many of her sons and daughters who sullied her face, preventing her from fully mirroring the image of her crucified Lord, the supreme witness of patient love and of humble meekness" (ibid. TMA 35).

Thus the penitent attitude of the Church in our time, on the threshold of the third millennium, is not intended as a convenient historical revisionism, which at any rate would be as suspect as it is useless. Instead, it turns our gaze to the past and to the recognition of sins, so that they will serve as a lesson for a future of ever clearer witness.

I warmly welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from Scotland, Indonesia and the United States of America. Wishing you a pleasant visit to Christian Rome, I invoke upon you the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

8 September 1999


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Continuing our reflection on the meaning of conversion, today we will also try to understand the meaning of the forgiveness of sins offered to us by Christ through the sacramental mediation of the Church.

First of all, we want to consider the biblical message about God's forgiveness: a message that is amply developed in the Old Testament and reaches its fullness in the New. The Church has inserted this article of her faith into the Creed itself, where in fact she professes the forgiveness of sins: Credo in remissionem peccatorum.

2. The Old Testament speaks to us in various ways about the forgiveness of sins. In this regard we find a variety of terms: sin is "forgiven", "blotted out" (
Ex 32,32), "purged" (Is 6,7), "cast behind your back" (Is 38,17). For example, Psalm 103 says, "who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases" (Ps 103,3). "He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor requite us according to our iniquities.... As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him" (Ps 103,10 Ps 103,13).

God's mercy is revealed in Jesus' words and deeds

God's willingness to forgive does not lessen man's responsibility and his need to be converted. However, as the prophet Ezekiel stresses, if the wicked man turns away from his wrongful behaviour his sins will not be remembered and he will live (cf. Ez 18, especially vv. Ez 18,19-22).

3. In the New Testament, God's forgiveness is revealed through Jesus' words and deeds. In pardoning sins, Jesus shows the face of God the merciful Father. By opposing certain religious tendencies marked by hypocritical severity towards sinners, he shows on various occasions how great and profound is the Father's mercy towards all his children (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 1443).

The high point of this revelation can be considered the sublime parable which is usually called "the prodigal son", but which should be called "the merciful father" (Lc 15,11-32). Here God's attitude is presented in terms that are truly overwhelming in comparison with human criteria and expectations. The father's conduct in the parable can be understood in all its originality, if we keep in mind that in the social context of Jesus' time it was normal for sons to work in their father's house, like the two sons of the vineyard owner, of whom he speaks in another parable (cf. Mt 21,28-31). This system continued until the father's death, and only then did the sons divide the property they had inherited. In our case, instead, the father agrees to give the younger son his share of the inheritance and divides his possessions between him and his elder son (cf. Lc 15,12).

46 4. The younger son's decision to be emancipated, squandering the goods he had received from his father and living a dissolute life (cf. ibid., Lc 15,13), is a shameless rejection of family communion.

Leaving the father's house clearly expresses the meaning of sin as an act of ungrateful rebellion with its humanly painful consequences. Human reasonableness, in some way expressed in the elder brother's protest, would have recommended an appropriately severe punishment for the younger son's decision before he could fully rejoin the family.

But the father, catching sight of him while still a long way off, runs to meet him full of compassion (or better, "inwardly moved with pity", as the Greek text literally says: Lc 15,20), embraces him lovingly and wants everyone to celebrate with him.

The father's mercy is even more apparent when he tenderly reprimands the elder brother for demanding his own rights (cf. ibid., Lc 15,29f.), and invites him to the communal banquet of joy. Mere legalism is surpassed by the father's generous and gratuitous love, which exceeds human justice and calls both brothers to be seated again at the father's table.

Forgiveness consists not only in taking back under the paternal roof the son who has left, but also in welcoming him with the joy of restored communion, bringing him from death to life. This is why "it was fitting to make merry and be glad" (ibid., Lc 15,32).

The merciful Father who embraces the prodigal son is the definitive icon of God revealed by Christ. First and foremost he is Father. It is God the Father who extends his arms in blessing and forgiveness, always waiting, never forcing any of his children. His hands support, clasp, give strength and, at the same time, comfort, console and caress. They are the hands of both a father and a mother.

The merciful father in the parable possesses and transcends all the traits of fatherhood and motherhood. In throwing himself on his son's neck, he resembles a mother who caresses her son and surrounds him with her warmth. In the light of this revelation of the face and heart of God the Father, we can understand Jesus' saying, so disconcerting to human logic: "There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance" (ibid., Lc 15,7). And: "There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (ibid., Lc 15,10).

5. The mystery of "home-coming" wonderfully expresses the encounter between the Father and humanity, between mercy and misery, in a circle of love that touches not only the son who was lost, but is extended to all.

The invitation to the banquet which the father extends to the elder son implies the heavenly Father's exhortation to all the members of the human family to be merciful as well.

The experience of God's fatherhood implies the acceptance of "brotherhood", precisely because God is the Father of all, even of our erring brother.

In recounting this parable, Jesus does not only speak of the Father but also lets us glimpse his own sentiments. To the Pharisees and the scribes who accused him of receiving sinners and eating with them (cf. ibid., Lc 15,2), he shows his preference for the sinners and tax collectors who were approaching him with trust (cf. ibid., Lc 15,1), and thus reveals that he has been sent to manifest the Father's mercy. This is the mercy that shines brightly especially on Golgotha, in the sacrifice offered by Christ for the forgiveness of sins (cf. Mt 26,28).

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:

I warmly welcome the members of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums from Detroit, and the group of altar servers from Malta. I thank the choirs from Orlando for their praise of God in song. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from Ireland, Denmark, Sri Lanka, Japan and the United States of America, I invoke the abundant blessings of almighty God.

15 September 1999

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. The journey to the Father, proposed for special reflection during this year of preparation for the Great Jubilee, also implies a rediscovery of the sacrament of Penance in its profound meaning as an encounter with the One who forgives us through Christ in the Spirit (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente,
TMA 50).There are various reasons why a serious reflection on this sacrament is urgently needed in the Church. It is called for especially by the message of the Father's love as the basis of Christian living and acting in the context of contemporary society, where the ethical vision of human life is often obscured. If many have lost their perspective on good and evil, it is because they have lost their sense of God, interpreting guilt only from a psychological or sociological viewpoint. Secondly, pastoral ministry must give a new impetus to a journey of faith growth that stresses the value of the spirit and practice of penance throughout the Christian life.

2. The biblical message presents this "penitential" dimension as an ongoing commitment to conversion. Doing works of penance presupposes a transformation of conscience that is the result of God's grace. In the New Testament especially, conversion is required as a fundamental choice of those to whom the kingdom of God is preached: "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mc 1,15 cf. Mt 4,17). Jesus began his ministry with these words, announcing the fulfilment of time and the imminence of the kingdom. "Repent" (in Greek, metanoeîte)is a call to change one's way of thinking and acting.

3. This invitation to conversion forms the vital conclusion of the Apostles' preaching after Pentecost. It fully explains the content of the message: it is no longer generically the "kingdom", but Jesus' very work as part of the divine plan foretold by the prophets. The proclamation of what occurred in Jesus Christ, who died, rose again and now lives in the Father's glory, is followed by the pressing invitation to "conversion", to which the forgiveness of sins is also connected. All of this can be clearly seen in Peter's address in Solomon's portico: "What God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent, therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out" (Ac 3,18-19).

In the Old Testament this forgiveness of sins is promised by God in the context of the "New Covenant" which he will make with his people (cf. Jr 31,31-34). God will write his law in their hearts. From this standpoint, conversion is a requirement of the definitive Covenant with God as well as a permanent attitude of those who accept the content of the Gospel message and enter into the historical and eschatological dynamism of God's kingdom.

4. The sacrament of Reconciliation conveys and makes visible in a mysterious way these fundamental values proclaimed by the Word of God. It reinserts man into the saving context of the Covenant and opens him again to the Trinitarian life, which is a dialogue of grace, a circuit of love, the gift and acceptance of the Holy Spirit.

A careful rereading of the Ordo Paenitentiae will be a great help during the Jubilee for deepening our understanding of the essential elements of this sacrament. The maturity of ecclesial life depends in large part on its rediscovery. The sacrament of Reconciliation is not limited to the liturgical celebration, but leads to a penitential attitude of life as an ongoing dimension of the Christian experience. It is "a drawing near to the holiness of God, a rediscovery of one's true identity which has been upset and disturbed by sin, a liberation in the very depth of self and thus a regaining of lost joy, the joy of being saved, which the majority of people in our time are no longer capable of experiencing" (Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, RP 31, III).

5. For the doctrinal meaning of this sacrament I refer you to the Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia (cf. RP 28-34) and to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (cf. CEC 1420-1484), as well as to the other statements of the Church's Magisterium. Here I would like to recall the importance of the necessary pastoral care for instilling a greater appreciation of this sacrament in the People of God, so that the message of reconciliation, the path of conversion and the very celebration of the sacrament can more deeply touch the hearts of the men and women of our day.

In particular, I wish to remind pastors that, to be good confessors, they themselves must be authentic penitents. Priests know that they have been entrusted with a power that comes from on high: the forgiveness imparted by them "is the effective sign of the intervention of the Father" (Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, RP 31, III) which brings resurrection from spiritual death. Therefore, when carrying out such an essential dimension of their ministry with Gospel humility and simplicity, confessors should not neglect their own growth and renewal, so that they will never lack those human and spiritual qualities which are so necessary for their relationship to consciences.

But along with pastors, the entire Christian community must be involved in the pastoral renewal of Reconciliation. This is required by the "ecclesial nature" of the sacrament itself. The Ecclesial Community is the embrace which welcomes the repentant and forgiven sinner and, even before, creates a suitable climate for the journey back to the Father. In a reconciled and reconciling community, sinners can find the way they had lost and the help of their brethren. In the end, through the Christian community it is possible again to mark out a sound path of charity, which visibly expresses through good works the forgiveness refound, the evil redressed, the hope of being able once again to experience the Father's merciful embrace.

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:

I extend a particular welcome to the Lutheran visitors from Latvia, as well as to the groups from England, Malta, Denmark, Japan, Canada and the United States of America. Upon all of you I invoke the abundant blessings of almighty God.

Wednesday 22 September 1999


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Continuing our reflection on the sacrament of Penance, today let us explore a dimension which is one of its essential features: reconciliation. This aspect of the sacrament serves as an antidote or remedy to the destructive nature of sin. By sinning, man not only distances himself from God, but sows the seed of division in himself and in his relations with others. The process of returning to God therefore implies restoration of the unity jeopardized by sin.

2. Reconciliation is the Father's gift: he alone can achieve it. This is why it is primarily an appeal which comes from on high: "In Christ's name: be reconciled to God" (
2Co 5,20). As Jesus explains in the parable of the prodigal son (cf. Lc 15,11-32), forgiving and reconciling people to himself is a celebration for him. In this as in other Gospel passages, the Father not only offers his forgiveness and reconciliation, but at the same time shows how these gifts are a source of joy for everyone.

In the New Testament there is a significant link between the divine fatherhood and the festive joy of a banquet. The kingdom of God is compared to a joyful feast at which the host is actually the Father (cf. Mt 8,11 Mt 22,4 Mt 26,29). The fulfilment of all salvation history is again expressed in the image of a banquet prepared by God the Father for the wedding feast of the Lamb (cf. Ap 19,6-9).

3. The reconciliation that comes from the Father is concentrated in Christ himself, the Lamb without blemish offered for our sins (1P 1,19 Ap 5,6 Ap 12,11). Jesus Christ is not only the Reconciler, but Reconciliation itself. As St Paul teaches, our becoming new creatures, renewed by the Spirit, "is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation" (2Co 5,18-19).

It is precisely through the mystery of the Cross that our Lord Jesus Christ overcomes the tragedy of the division between man and God. Indeed, with Easter the mystery of the Father's infinite mercy penetrates the darkest roots of human iniquity. There a movement of grace begins which, if accepted with free consent, leads us to taste the sweetness of full reconciliation.

The abyss of Christ's pain and abandonment is thus turned into an inexhaustible source of compassionate and reconciling love. The Redeemer retraces a path leading back to the Father, making it possible to experience again the filial relationship that was lost and to confer on human beings the necessary strength to preserve this deep communion with God.

49 4. Unfortunately, even in redeemed existence there is the possibility of sinning again and this calls for constant vigilance. Furthermore, even after forgiveness, the "residue of sin" remains and must be removed and combatted by a programme of penance involving a greater commitment to doing good. This requires first of all the reparation of physical or moral wrongs done to groups or individuals. Conversion thus becomes a continual journey, in which the mystery of reconciliation made present in the sacrament is the point of arrival and departure.

The encounter with the forgiving Christ increases in our hearts that dynamism of Trinitarian love which the Ordo Paenitentiae describes in the following way: "In the sacrament of Penance the Father receives the repentant children who come back to him, Christ places the lost sheep on his shoulders and brings them back to the sheepfold, and the Holy Spirit resanctifies those who are the temple of God or dwells more fully in them. The expression of all this is the sharing in the Lord's table, begun again or made more ardent; such a return of children from afar brings great rejoicing at the banquet of God's Church" (n. 6; cf. also nn. 5 and 19).

5. In the formula of absolution, the "Rite of Penance" expresses the relationship between forgiveness and peace, offered by God the Father in the Death and Resurrection of his Son, and the mediation of "the ministry of the Church" (Ordo Paenitentiae, n. 46). While the sacrament signifies and brings about the gift of reconciliation, it also highlights the fact that reconciliation concerns our relationship not only with God the Father, but also with our brothers and sisters.

These two aspects of reconciliation are closely correlated. Christ's reconciling work occurs in the Church. She cannot reconcile on her own but only as a living instrument of Christ's pardon, on the basis of the Lord's precise mandate (cf.
Jn 20,23 Mt 18,18). This reconciliation in Christ is achieved in a pre-eminent way in the celebration of the sacrament of Penance. But the Church's whole inner being in its community dimension is characterized by a permanent disposition to reconciliation.

It is necessary to overcome a certain individualism in the way one thinks of reconciliation: the entire Church cooperates in the conversion of sinners through prayer, exhortation, fraternal correction and charitable support. Without reconciliation with our brothers and sisters, love would not take flesh in the individual. Just as sin damages the tissue of the Body of Christ, so reconciliation restores solidarity among the People of God.

6. Ancient penitential practice highlighted the community-ecclesial aspect of reconciliation, particularly at the final moment of absolution by the Bishop with full readmission of the penitents into the community. The Church's teaching and the penitential discipline promulgated after the Second Vatican Council urge the faithful to rediscover and restore to honour this community-ecclesial dimension of Reconciliation (cf. Lumen gentium, LG 11 and also Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 27), while maintaining the doctrine on the need for individual confession.

In the context of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, it will be important to offer effective and updated paths of reconciliation which will lead to rediscovering the community dimension not only of penance, but of the Father's entire plan of salvation for humanity. Thus the teaching of the Constitution Lumen gentium will be put into practice: "God has willed to make men holy and save them, not as individuals without any bond or link between them, but rather to make them into a people who might acknowledge him and serve him in holiness" (LG 9).

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:

I extend a warm welcome to the new students of the Pontifical Beda College, and I encourage them to grow each day in their love of the Church, built on the foundation of the Apostles. Upon all the English-speaking pilgims and visitors, especially those from Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia and the United States of America, I invoke the abundant blessings of almighty God.

Today it is our joy to have among us three young people from the Middle East representing the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, and belonging to the three monotheistic religions of the region.

To this representative group I will present a personal written message which, I hope, will encourage the efforts being made by young people in the Middle East to build a society where peace and harmony among peoples and the followers of different religions will reign supreme. This is our prayer for the entire region, so dear to all the children of Abraham.