Pope chairs peace forum in Verona, Italy

Pope Francis on Saturday chaired a forum on peace in Verona, a city in northern Italy best known for the story of Romeo and Juliet, and the war between their two families told by Shakespeare. “Peace can never be the result of distrust, of walls, of weapons pointed at each other,” he told more than 12,000 people gathered in the arenas of Verona, an amphitheater dating from the Romans. “We sow death, destruction, fear. Let us sow hope!” added the 87-year-old pontiff.

Sitting on a high-backed chair, he waved a peace flag, before answering questions and listening to testimonies from Israelis and Palestinians. This is the Pope’s second trip in less than a month, after Venice in April, where he notably presided over a mass in Saint Mark’s Square. He was to continue this day in Verona by having lunch with inmates of Montorio prison, before presiding over a mass in the Bentegodi stadium.

“Don’t fight with others”

His visit began in the Romanesque basilica of San Zeno, which is said to have inspired Shakespeare for the crypt in which young people get married. There he met some children, to whom he said: “Listen to others, play with others, but don’t fight with others!”

Pope Francis, who now uses a wheelchair, has suffered from several health problems in recent years and has reduced the frequency of his travels. His last international visit was to France in September. Despite these problems, the Vatican is planning an ambitious 12-day trip to Asia – Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Singapore – for next September. Previously, he was scheduled to travel to Trieste in northeastern Italy in July.

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