@Pontifex Names 17 New Cardinals, Steering Ship South

Woman portraying figure in Nativity scene puts lamb around neck of Pope Francis during visit to Rome church
Today in Rome, Pope Francis announced 17 new cardinals from 11 different countries; 13 are eligible to vote for the next pope. Another action to steer the ship of the Catholic Church toward the “southern cross.” Most Catholics live in the majority world. Francis aims for the college of cardinals to reflect that orientation.

According to Josh McElwee in the National Catholic Reporter, “November’s consistory will be Francis’ third, following his creation of 20 cardinals in February 2015 and 19 in February 2014. After the upcoming consistory, Francis will have named 44 of 123 cardinals able to vote in a papal conclave.”

Below is an excerpt from a 2014 article I wrote for Sojourners on the tremendous shift Pope Francis is bringing to the college of cardinals.

There’s a new sheriff in town: Pope Francis wants deputies, not darlings.

“The cardinalship does not imply promotion,” the pope wrote in a personal letter to his fresh picks; “it is neither an honor nor a decoration; it is simply a service that requires you to broaden your gaze and open your hearts.”

Until now [2014], the influential college was dominated by the Northern minority, from Europe and North America; only about 25 percent were from the global South. This made sense in 1910, when France and Italy had the highest population of Catholics. Now, Brazil and Mexico top the list—and Catholicism’s growing center is in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. If not for the church’s historical connection to Rome, the Vatican might relocate to Rio de Janeiro or Lagos!

Ten of the 19 cardinals Francis chose are from the majority world—including three from the poorest countries: Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Haiti. Like Quevedo, they are pastors rather than administrators, “shepherds who have the smell of their sheep.” Francis is putting the poorest at the center, steering the way toward a Southern majority…. –Rose Marie Berger

Read the rest of A Shift in Priorities?


Abbot Philip: Change is part of our Spirituality

Abbot Phillip
Abbot Phillip

“Changes are part of normal life but are also a part of our spirituality. I dislike changes very much and prefer that everything goes on without change. I dislike it when people leave the community. I dislike it when we have to discuss how to change various parts of our life. I dislike it when I have to make personal changes. And so on and on and on. Yet I recognize that my likes or dislikes never stop the need for change and adaptation. Over the years I have come to see the positive side of changes and the challenges that changes put in front of all of us as humans.Appreciating the value of change does not mean that I like change! Part of my personal spirituality has come to be accepting things that I don’t like, appreciating things that I don’t like, and being still and silent and not reacting about things that I don’t like. This has served me well over the years.

I was sharing with one of the brothers the other day that when I was a young superior … who was almost 30 years older than I, kept telling me this: don’t write or speak when you are angry! Over the years I finally learned that he was correct. Not writing or speaking when I am angry could become a way to avoid an issue, but that is not what it is supposed to be. Rather, it is a way of remaining in peace so that I can truly see before I act. Anger is only one of the ways in which we can be blinded. All of our natural desires can pull us away from this inner place where we see things as they truly are. As I continue to grow older, I find some solace in still learning how to be peaceful and to see what is happening, rather than just reacting to what is happening.

Sometimes I laugh to myself when I look back at how impulsive I was as a young monk and then a young superior. My temper can still flare, but much less than when I was young. The last three meetings that I have been at have been so peaceful for me because of learning to be still. One of the Italian abbots asked me: what is wrong with you, Philip? You haven’t commented on anything.
I replied to him that finally I had learned to be still and just to listen. Most of the time any views that I have are expressed by others and I don’t need to say them. I still speak up if something is clearly unacceptable to me, but most of the time, if I just wait, everything turns out well enough. The few decisions that I would disagree with are usually not important at all.

Someone told me that I was avoiding responsibility by not speaking out. From my point of view, this is simply not true. If there is something that I totally disagree with and which is set to become the norm, then I do speak out. Others listen to me more, the less I speak. I see much of this way of thinking expressed in the wisdom literature of Scripture.”–Abbot Philip, Christ in the Desert Monastery

Read Abbot Philip’s complete reflection.

OCT 7: Just Peace, Just War, Just Catholic: Where Are We Going?


Just Peace, Just War, Just Catholic: Where are we Going?

Speakers: Rose Marie Berger and Judy Coode
Date: Friday, October 7, 2016 @ 7:30 p.m.
Place: Dorothy Day  Catholic Worker: 503 Rock Creek Church Rd. NW,
Washington, DC, 20010

In April an unprecedented conference took place in Rome on re-centering the Roman Catholic Church on active gospel nonviolence. Hear about the gathering from those who were there. More than 80 Catholics from around the world gathered with the Vatican to discuss how to renew active gospel nonviolence as a “instrument for peace,” to paraphrase Pope Francis. Join the global conversation on moving from a war church to a peace church.

Sign the appeal asking Pope Francis for an encyclical on nonviolence. Be part of Francis’ 3-legged legacy: A church of the poor, defense of creation, and radical Christian nonviolence.

Rose Marie Berger is a Roman Catholic peace activist and senior associate editor at Sojourners magazine. She contributed a framing paper on Just Peace to the April conference in Rome. (Read No Longer Legitimating War: Christians and Just Peace.)

Judy Coode was lead organizer for the conference and is program coordinator for the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative (www.nonviolencejustpeace.net).

For more info contact the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker:artlaffin@hotmail.com — (202-360-6416)

Nonviolence and Eucharist

Cardinal Turkson and Archbishop Paride (right) celebrate Eucharist.
Cardinal Turkson and Archbishop Paride (right) celebrate Eucharist.

“The nonviolent way of Jesus is the only way that I know, the only example that I can find, that has enough depth and complexity to deal with our reality… The Eucharist is the only place in my culture where there’s even a hint of this other way. It’s not on TV, it’s not in politics, it’s not in the newspapers, it’s not on my city streets. The only place where I find any kind of imagination about nonviolence and peace is within my ritual of going to Mass.”–Rose Marie Berger

This is part of a statement I made at the Catholic conference on Nonviolence and Just Peace held in Rome in April. I’m grateful to Pat Gaffney and Pax Christi/UK for saving it, since it was from an extemporaneous speech for which I have no notes.

Read more about the gathering on “Nonviolence and Just Peace: Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment to Nonviolence” in the Pax Christi/UK August 2016 publication.

You can endorse and spread The Appeal to the Catholic Church to Re-commit to the Centrality of Gospel Nonviolence (the culminating statement of the Rome conference).

Martin Luther King: Who Eats Jim Crow?

martin-luther-king-1965-selma-hero-fix-AOn March 25, 1965, Martin Luther King gave a speech in Montgomery, Alabama, at the conclusion of the bloody warfare that was the “Selma to Montgomery” march.

As we hear new voices white nationalism during this election season, I recall Dr. King’s words. For Christians, this season of “wolves” requires that we be “shrewd as serpents and gentle as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

Here’s an excerpt from King’s speech:

Toward the end of the Reconstruction era, something very significant happened. (Listen to him) That is what was known as the Populist Movement. (Speak, sir) The leaders of this movement began awakening the poor white masses (Yes, sir) and the former Negro slaves to the fact that they were being fleeced by the emerging Bourbon interests. Not only that, but they began uniting the Negro and white masses (Yeah) into a voting bloc that threatened to drive the Bourbon interests from the command posts of political power in the South.

To meet this threat, the southern aristocracy began immediately to engineer this development of a segregated society. (Right) I want you to follow me through here because this is very important to see the roots of racism and the denial of the right to vote. Through their control of mass media, they revised the doctrine of white supremacy. They saturated the thinking of the poor white masses with it, (Yes) thus clouding their minds to the real issue involved in the Populist Movement. They then directed the placement on the books of the South of laws that made it a crime for Negroes and whites to come together as equals at any level. (Yes, sir) And that did it. That crippled and eventually destroyed the Populist Movement of the nineteenth century.

If it may be said of the slavery era that the white man took the world and gave the Negro Jesus, then it may be said of the Reconstruction era that the southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow. (Yes, sir) He gave him Jim Crow. (Uh huh) And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, (Yes, sir) he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black man. (Right sir) And he ate Jim Crow. (Uh huh) And when his undernourished children cried out for the necessities that his low wages could not provide, he showed them the Jim Crow signs on the buses and in the stores, on the streets and in the public buildings. (Yes, sir) And his children, too, learned to feed upon Jim Crow, (Speak) their last outpost of psychological oblivion. (Yes, sir)

Thus, the threat of the free exercise of the ballot by the Negro and the white masses alike (Uh huh) resulted in the establishment of a segregated society. They segregated southern money from the poor whites; they segregated southern mores from the rich whites; (Yes, sir) they segregated southern churches from Christianity (Yes, sir); they segregated southern minds from honest thinking; (Yes, sir) and they segregated the Negro from everything. (Yes, sir) That’s what happened when the Negro and white masses of the South threatened to unite and build a great society: a society of justice where none would pray upon the weakness of others; a society of plenty where greed and poverty would be done away; a society of brotherhood where every man would respect the dignity and worth of human personality. (Yes, sir)–Martin Luther King Jr.

Read the whole speech.

Lazarus and the Rich Man

Lazarus and the Rich Man
Hamlet, North Carolina (Luke 16:19-31)

That man dressed fine as Sunday every day
of the week. Owned Imperial Food Products
poultry processors. Had a plant right here
in town. Every morning, early, the workers
would line up at the front gates–mostly women,
mostly black folk, some with joints froze up from
working those machines, some with emphysema
from working the pantyhose factory
down the road, but all wanting their babies
to eat half as good as what sat on that
rich man’s table every evening ’round supper time.
Well, he got to worrying that some folks
might start stealing his chicken parts,
so he took to locking up the factory
doors once the morning shift was in place. The
time came when a hydraulic line blew on
one of the deep-fat fryers and black smoke
filled up the room, followed by grease fire. None of
the state-of-the-art, automatic, carbon
dioxide sprinklers ever came on. Most
folks died at the south end of the building
near the walk-in freezer. They had headed
for the exit, but it was locked. Then they
were drawn on by the gulps of cool air. Some
died down at the loading dock. Piled up on
each other trying to get through the small
hole between the wall and the truck blocking
the platform. There was Mary Alice Whit.
She was dead. There was Peggy Fairley. She
was dead. There was Lillian Mary Wall,
who’d only worked chicken a few months. She
was dead. And Margaret Banks. When
they brought her out, you could already
tell she was dead. All in all, there were 25
who died that day. The Hamlet police lieutenant
said you couldn’t tell whether the bodies
were white or black on account of the smoke; but the
angels, who pay no mind to color, came
and carried every single one of them
up into the arms of Abraham.
Now, all of this happened the day after
Labor Day. And even though Imperial
didn’t allow no organizing in its
plants, the North Carolina Textile Workers
Union still sent dresses (and suits for the
men) to use as burying clothes. At the
First Baptist Church the mourners cried out “Lord,
Lord,” maybe because in the confusion
they had missed the angels. They cried out “Slavery
time’s been over! How much longer is it
going on?” To which there was just no good
answer. What all happened to the rich man
was never much covered in the newspapers,
but the actual truth is
his story’s been told before.

Rose Marie Berger

On September 3, 1991, a fire swept through the Imperial Food Products plant in Hamlet, North Carolina. Twenty-five workers were killed and 55 injured, trapped behind locked fire doors. In 11 years of operation, the plant had never received a safety inspection. Investigators believe a safety inspection might have prevented the disaster. Emmett J. Roe, the owner of Imperial Food; his son, Brad Roe, Imperial’s operations manager; and plant manager James N. Hair were indicted in March 1992 on 25 counts each of involuntary manslaughter. Emmett Roe had personally ordered the doors to be locked from the outside. He received a prison sentence of 19 years and 11 months, less than a year for each person he killed. Roe became eligible for parole in March 1994, and was released just under four years into his sentence.

(Lazarus and the Rich Man by Rose Marie Berger first appeared in Sojourners magazine, August-September 1992)

For more on the Hamlet, N.C., industrial fire, read A Southern Tragedy, in Crimson and Yellow by Lawrence Naumoff.

See also the University of Virginia “Labor Disasters” web site.

Joan Chittister: Bend To Become the Miracle

Art by Dina Cormick
Art by Dina Cormick

“The fact is that the only purpose of the spiritual life, the Desert Monastics tell us to this day, is to begin to see the world as God sees the world. It is about becoming the self that sees life through the eyes of Jesus and then, like Jesus, bends to become the miracle the world awaits.”– Joan Chittister (In God’s Holy Light)

July 22: Feast Day of Mary of Magdala

marymagdaleneWhile Catholic women have honored Mary Magdalene as the “apostle to the apostles” for generations, Pope Francis elevated her in the Roman calendar of saints in early June.

Today, July 22, 2016, marks the first official “Feast day” of Saint Mary Magdalene in the Roman Catholic calendar.

Today, Catholic women are gathering in Krakow, Poland, at the house where John Paul II lived when he was cardinal to lift up the call for ordination of Catholic women to the priesthood.

According to the international Women’s Ordination Conference:

“Mary Magdalene’s official recognition as an apostle, chosen by Jesus, affirms women’s rightful capacity to act “in persona Christi,” and restores her, often maligned, legacy as someone instrumental to our faith and equal to her male counterparts.

Claims of male clerical superiority based on a physical resemblance to Jesus have never convinced nor served the wider Church.

WOW calls on the Church to rid itself of the sin of sexism and model unconditional equality by opening up all ministries to Catholic women who have the talent and vocation to serve their communities as St. Mary Magdalene did.

WOW also celebrates its 20th anniversary in July and will hold their annual gathering in Krakow ahead of Pope Francis’ visit for World Youth Day. During the past 20 years of campaigning, WOW has worked to challenge all remaining arguments against women’s ordination. The official recognition of Mary Magdalene’s role makes an exclusively male leadership model impossible to uphold and strengthens the case for gender justice.

We are calling on Pope Francis to recognize that a “discipleship of equals” and renewed church will only be possible when women are accepted as equals and are able to participate alongside men.”







Bernardine of Siena: ‘Medicine of Souls’

51“Jesus, you are the refuge of those who repent, the medicine of souls, the comfort of those who mourn, the delight of those who believe, the light of those who preach the true faith, the wages of those who toil, the healing of the sick. We delight in contemplating you!”–St. Bernardine of Siena

Exodus 38 and All The Naked Ladies

“And he made the basin of bronze, and its pedestal of bronze, from the mirrors of the women assembling, who assembled at the door of the Tent of Meeting.”–Exodus 38:8

all the naked ladies


One day ahead of the opening of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, artist Spencer Tunick orchestrated hundreds of women for a public art protest.

The art installation is titled: Everything She Says Means Everything. It involved 100 naked women holding mirrors facing the Quicken Loans Arena, where tomorrow the Republican National Convention will begin.

Tunick described his inspiration for the installation this way:

Republicans, Democrats and all other political parties were welcome to take part reflecting their anger through art against the hateful repressive rhetoric of many in the Republican Party toward women and minorities. Trump and Pence are giving many in America the belief that is OK to hate. Over 1800 women signed up for the 100 spaces to bare all in this heightened arena of politics and protest and this number alone is a testament to their bravery and desire for change. They did not know where they were going to pose when they signed up to be part of this art action, it could have been in the epicenter of the security zone, but they still wanted to participate. Our concept was for 100 women to pose with 100 mirrors. Our location was secret to keep the women safe and would only allow for a small number of participants. But 1800 women would have shown up naked in front on the steps of the convention to make art with what may be the most controversial subject in this presidential race, a woman’s body.

I was struck by how biblical this image is. Women and “mirror play” is central to the survival of the Israelites after the Exodus from Egypt. The women’s mirror-play is a way of extending the grand narrative of liberation and shining it into every generation. The midrash says that in slavery the men were beaten down, forbidden to sleep with their wives and families. They lost generative power because of the weight of their oppression. The brief mention of “mirrors,” which the women offer as part of building a basin for the Temple is expanded in the midrashic process to illuminate a backstory of defiance against Pharaoh’s impossible decrees and the liberating energy of multiplying the Israelites.

Avivah Zornberg describes, “Subtly, the midrash yields its meanings. The mirrors are not simply the means by which women adorn themselves, set in motion the processes of desire, procreation, the creation of a nation. A much larger claim is being made: through these mirrors, each woman conceived six hundred thousand babies at a time” (Exodus: The Particulars of Rapture by Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg).

When the body politic is so flaccid and desiccated as it is now, producing more death than life, then a generative desire must be cultivated so that the people can remember what it feels like to be alive, to choose life. In Zornberg’s book on Exodus, she says “the mirrors … remain for me the most evocative symbol of redemption.”

From a field in Cleveland at dawn, may this midrash bear fruit.

Rose Marie Berger is a Catholic peace activist and poet.