“War can be done without God, but peace can be done only with Him”. Pope Francis stressed this point as he addressed members of the Italian Youth Missionary Service – “Servizio Missionario Giovani” (SERMIG) – on Saturday morning. SERMIG is a Catholic organization that gathers young people, married couples, families, and religious men and women committed to spreading the Gospel of hope through volunteering in peace and in solidarity projects for the poor.
It was founded in Turin, Northern Italy, in 1964 by an Italian Catholic couple, Ernesto Olivero and his wife Maria, and a group of young people who wanted to engage in concrete action for social justice and peace inspired by the Gospel.
In his address Pope Francis praised the work of the SERMIG, which, he said, “is a kind of large tree grown from a small seed” sown in the Sixties, noting that this period marked by the Second Vatican Council, was a “fruitful time” for the Church, which saw the flourishing of many ecclesial lay movements.
“The fruits (of this seed) show that the SERMIG hasn’t done mere activism, but has left space (to the Lord): it has prayed to Him, adored Him, recognized Him in the little ones and the poor, welcomed Him in the marginalized.”
The Arsenal of Peace
Among the many activities and initiatives promoted over these six decades, the Pope highlighted the transformation of the Military Arsenal of Turin into the “Arsenal of Peace” (“Arsenale della Pace”) in the early Eighties.
The 45.000-square-metre compound, where many of the weapons used during the Two World Wars were once produced, was converted into an urban monastery in 1983, which has offered a shelter to men and women seeking help and a meeting point for thousands of young people hailing from Italy and other countries to discuss peace and justice, learn about peacebuilding and pray together.
A sign of the Gospel and the fruit of God’s dream
“The Arsenal of Peace like other SERMIG initiatives and in general all the works of the Christian communities “is a sign of the Gospel (…), the fruit of God’s dream, we could say of the power of the Word of God”, said the Pope.
He noted that the Arsenal is now a place where the “weapons of peace” – are forged, by teaching young people “to meet, dialogue, and welcome”, in other words, “fraternity”.
Pope Francis, therefore, thanked SERMIG for giving life to this dream of fraternity, which he wanted to re-launch in the Church and in the world through his Encyclical Letter ‘Fratelli Tutti’, remarking that peace cannot be built without God.
Never get tired of building the Arsenal of Peace
He encouraged SERMIG to “never get tired of building the Arsenal of Peace”, saying it is an ongoing construction site, as testified by other initiatives the Catholic organization has launched, including the “Arsenal of Hope” in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the “Arsenal of Encounter” in Madaba, Jordan, and the “Arsenal of Harmony” in Pecetto Torinese, Italy.
Concluding, Pope Francis recognized that “every man and woman of goodwill can work in the Arsenals of peace, hope, encounter and harmony”, however, he said, only a community of faith and prayer rooted in the Gospel can fully carry out this mission.