VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Building peace starts with small gestures and kind words, and in today’s world it must include being generous to migrants and refugees, Pope Francis told a major gathering of German Catholics.

“Wherever the human person as such is not considered a gift of God, there follows disagreement, resentment and hatred,” Pope Francis said in his message to the 101st Katholikentag, a national Catholic convention running May 9-13 in Munster.

Pope Francis told German Catholics, “I am deeply worried about the people, especially children and young people, who are forced to flee because of war and violence in their countries.”


“They knock on our doors asking for help and a welcome,” the pope said. “In their eyes we see a yearning for peace.”

The theme of the 2018 Katholikentag, “Seek peace,” was drawn from Psalm 34, which urges believers: “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

“Today there is no theme more important in the public debate about religion than the problem of fanaticism and the propensity to violence,” the pope said.

The urge to lash out, he said, is seen in families, at work, in neighborhoods, within nations and between them. It occurs anytime another person is not recognized first as a gift of God.

“In every child, no matter where he or she was born, there is Christ who looks at us, Christ who came into our world as a defenseless baby. Children are the future,” the pope wrote.

Christians, the pope said, must begin to build peace in their families and schools, “but also and especially through politics.”

“Peace will continue to grow also when Christians of different denominations publicly give a united witness to Christ and work together in society,” he said.

A peaceful society and one able to share peace with others “requires respectful coexistence among all people of good will of all religions and all denominations,” the pope said. “All can be precious stones for building a peace-loving society.”

While praising the many works of charity and social assistance provided by German Catholics, Pope Francis insisted that peace actually begins “in the simple and modest use of language, in the choice of the words we use,” including “the words of our prayers.”