The city on the mount

In a famous speech  on “the value of cities”, delivered in Geneva in 1954, La Pira asserted the right of cities to survive and therefore the duty of administrators to work in the cause of peace.
In Florence during the years of the Cold War he organized the Christian Conferences for Peace and Civilization , and subsequently the Mediterranean Colloquies.

The underlying premise of these was that war cannot resolve conflicts and negotiation is therefore inevitable; indeed it is the only strategy capable of dealing with the era of decolonization and the growing awareness of the basic common destiny of all peoples. Part of this strategy was the twinning of cities promoted by La Pira, who created links between Florence and cities on every continent: Reims, Fez, Kiev, Philadelphia and others. “We must unite the cities,” he said, “to unite the nations.” In 1955 he also organized a conference of the mayors of capital cities of the world: Washington, Warsaw, London, Paris, Peking and Moscow. In 1959 he visited Moscow, the first non-Communist western politician to go behind the Iron Curtain. It was an important occasion, during which he did not hesitate, in the Kremlin itself, to raise the burning question of State atheism.

His visit to Moscow was one of many aimed at breaking down the walls and building bridges, in keeping with the fundamental notion of the unity of the human family. One of the most delicate was the visit to Vietnam , from which he returned with an offer of negotiation which might have avoided years of useless and bloody warfare. Other important journeys took him to the Middle East. He declared that there will never be peace in the world until there is peace between Christians, Jews and Muslims: what he called “the threefold family of Abraham” .


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