The world needs leaders who can "put into practice a more just way for all of us to live in this world as sharers in a common destiny," Pope Francis said.
"There is no need, on the other hand, for hurling slogans that often remain empty, or for antagonism between parties jockeying for the front position," the pope said in a letter to the international conference of "Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church."
The group is a network of Catholic theologians and ethicists. According to the National Catholic Reporter, some 500 members from 80 countries were in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, for a meeting July 26-29 on the theme, "A Critical Time for Bridge-Building: Catholic Theological Ethics Today."
In his letter to participants, Pope Francis said Sarajevo, a city of bridges and symbol of the devastation of the Balkan war in the 1990s, was an appropriate place to discuss how in situations of tension and division, there is a need to forge "new paths of closeness between peoples, cultures, religions, visions of life and political orientations."
The pope said he keeps repeating "the need to build bridges, not walls" in the hopes that people will take action even if they are tempted "by fear and forms of regression."
"Without renouncing prudence," he said, "we are called to recognize every sign and mobilize all our energy in order to remove the walls of division and to build bridges of fraternity everywhere in the world."
The role of Catholic theologians and ethicists, he said, is to reflect on current problems -- including political and social ones such as climate change and migration -- and, hopefully, inspire "suitable pastoral attitudes and responsible and carefully planned political policies."
Pope Francis praised the group of theologians and ethicists for forming a network that is global and includes people of differing visions.
Reflection, dialogue and joint analysis of problems, he said, should lead to a harnessing of the energy needed to inspire actions that are "compassionate and attentive to tragic human situations, and concerned with accompanying them with merciful care."
Building the necessary bridges among the theologians, the pope said, "does not mean striving for uniformity of viewpoints, but rather seeking with sincerity and goodwill a convergence of purposes, in dialogical openness and the discussion of differing perspectives."
"Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary openness," which should characterize their work and the work of Catholic colleges and universities, is "so vital" and can result in analysis which is "all the more insightful and attentive to the complexity of human reality," Pope Francis said.
But also with dialogue, he said, "you yourselves will learn ever better how to be faithful to the word of God, which challenges us in history, and to show solidarity with the world, which you are not called to judge but rather to offer new paths, accompany journeys, bind hurts and shore up weakness."