Greeting the 350 members of the Association in the Vatican, on the occasion of its 20th anniversary, His Holiness Pope Francis told those gathered that in these twenty years they had “developed a method capable of transforming conflicts, bringing young people out of this deception and sending them back to their peoples for full spiritual, moral, cultural and civil development: generous young people who, blameless, were born with the burden of the failures of previous generations.”

As reported by Vatican news, The Pontiff went on to discuss an appeal the Citadel of Peace Association has written and which will be presented to the UN on 10 December, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Peace leaders, the Pontiff underlined, “are not those politicians who do not know how to dialogue and confront each other: a leader who does not strive to meet the ‘enemy’, to sit with him at the table as you do, cannot lead his people towards peace. To do this we need humility and not arrogance.” Peace, His Holiness Pope Francis concluded, “is everyone’s responsibility.”

The Citadel of Peace Association was founded 20 years ago by Franco Vaccari who had an interest in conflict resolution. Mr Vaccari took the formerly abandoned Italian village of Rondine in Tuscany and turned it into a centre for conflict resolution which was nominated in 2015 for the Nobel Peace Prize. Over the years, young people from areas of conflict around the world have come to the village and the centre in a bid to promote understanding and peace. Those who are welcomed at the centre for a course of study come from countries such as; Israel and the Palestinian Authority; Serbia and Bosnia; Armenia and Azerbaijan; Russia and Chechnya.