Plant a forest of peace: That’s the message that Pope Francis wanted to impart to the world’s children on March 19, when he tapped the screen of a tablet and planted a “virtual olive tree.”
The Pontifical Academy of Sciences is promoting the initiative, which was originated by Scholas Occurrentes, the “Worldwide Network of Schools Getting Together.”
Director General of the Scholas Occurrentes Enrique Palmeyro told the international news agency ZENIT the history of the initiative:
Palmeyro recalled that “in the year 2000, the then Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, planted an olive tree in Plaza de Mayo in the Argentine capital. He was accompanied by ministers of all religious creeds as well as 7,000 students. That same olive tree of peace was the one that the Pope gave to Messi and Buffon, captains of the soccer teams that sponsored the birth of Scholas Occurrentes on August 13, 2013.”
Palmeyro added that, through the Internet, children worldwide will be invited to plant a virtual forest of peace, in which each one will draw a tree of the forest. “Each child will plant an olive tree and this will be a message of encounter and peace. Peace in homes, in schools and in soccer.” It is an effort to foster awareness of the importance of peace, not only understood as the absence of war, but also in families, among friends, and in schools.
Argentine Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and about 40 guests were present in the Santa Marta guesthouse for the event, which is designed to foster schoolchildren’s awareness of peace and what it means in their homes, communities, and countries.
Taking advantage of yet another new technology, Pope Francis used Twitter to send a message to followers of his @pontifex account. The Pope tweeted: