“We are brothers”. A pacifying phrase, balm on the open wounds of humanity at times of hatred instilled by fear and hostility generated by the suspect, in the current climate of international terrorism. “Christians and Muslims, we are brothers,” Pope Francis said in the Koudoukou mosque in Bangui. I have been thinking these days of Advent that an exemplary sign of this being brothers and sisters with Muslims is our common belief in the Mother of Jesus! Devotion to Mary, the only woman in the Koran who is called by her name, is a deeply felt in the Muslim world. Marian shrines are places of pilgrimage for Muslims who pray her and ask her for graces. In Egypt, Syria, Morocco and other countries, Christians and Muslims are cultivating this common love for the Virgin. Also the sign of peace that is happening in Lebanon is extraordinary: Christians and Muslims celebrate Annunciation together there, as a national holiday.
The meeting – televised – is followed by more than a million and a half people. A country torn by a long civil war in the past, Lebanon is aware of how important harmony between peoples is. This is the reason why political authorities have fixed March 25 as the day of celebration of the National Islamic-Christian Day. This jubilee year, I think that mercy can be the thread that weaves our dialogue with Islam: we know that Muslims add to the name of God, not just pronounce it, the title of “compassionate and merciful”: on this reality that unites us, can be built a genuine encounter and true peace.
And, as he wrote in a letter for the 2015 Advent, Monsignor Vincenzo Bertolone: “If we follow the directions of the Mater misericordiae, we will have a well-marked path, we will even take the short cut to heaven, without making mistakes, like the inhabitants of Babel did, building themselves “a city and a tower whose top may reach heaven”. For several years now Babel has been looming as a metaphor of men and women of modernity. In love with ourselves, we do not realize that not only society is dramatically changing, but the river bed itself, the basic assumptions on which our society is based are changing…”. May Christians and Muslims of good be supported by Mary, from her womb fruitful of Mercy, sign of a friendship that can save the world.