Sixty bishops from twenty countries attended The Mediterranean, a Frontier of Peace, a meeting from February 19 to 23, 2020, not by chance in Bari, the setting in 2018 of a significant ecumenical prayer meeting that had seen the patriarchs and heads of the Churches of the Middle East gather around Pope Francis.
With the pope’s encouragement, and on behalf of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti had invited the patriarchs and bishops of the countries bordering the Mediterranean to consider this very particular space in the world for a period of reflection, discernment and pastoral collaboration among the Catholic Churches. In fact, the Mediterranean is “perhaps the most dynamic place of interaction between different societies on the face of the planet, playing a much more significant role in the history of human civilization than any other sea.”
The intention was also to continue the process that Pope Francis envisaged in the important theological reflection he offered in Naples on June 21, 2019: “The Mediterranean has always been a place of transit, of exchange, and sometimes even of conflict. We are all too familiar with many of them. This place today raises a series of questions, often dramatic ones.
They can be expressed in some of the questions we asked ourselves at the interreligious meeting in Abu Dhabi: How can we take care of each other within the one human family? How can we nourish a tolerant and peaceful coexistence that translates into authentic fraternity? How can we make it so that the welcoming of the other person and of those who are different from us because they belong to a different religious and cultural tradition prevails in our communities? How can religions be paths of brotherhood instead of walls of separation? These and other issues need to be discussed at various levels, and require a generous commitment to listening, studying and dialogue in order to promote processes of liberation, peace, brotherhood and justice. We must be convinced: it is about starting processes, not of defining or occupying spaces. Starting processes…”