Pope Francis to World Popular Movements First U.S. Meeting

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

First of all, I would like to congratulate you for your effort in replicating on a national level the work being developed in the World Meetings of Popular Movements. By way of this letter, I want to encourage and strengthen each one of you, your organizations, and all who strive with you for “Land, Work and Housing,” the three T’s in Spanish: Tierra, Trabajo y Techo. I congratulate you for all that you are doing.

I would like to thank the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, its chairman Bishop David Talley, and the host Bishops Stephen Blaire, Armando Ochoa and Jaime Soto, for the wholehearted support they have offered to this meeting. Thank you, Cardinal Peter Turkson, for your continued support of popular movements from the new Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development. It makes me very happy to see you working together towards social justice! How I wish that such constructive energy would spread to all dioceses, because it builds bridges between peoples and individuals. These are bridges that can overcome the walls of exclusion, indifference, racism, and intolerance.

I would also like to highlight the work done by the PICO National Network and the organizations promoting this meeting. I learned that PICO stands for “People Improving Communities through Organizing”. What a great synthesis of the mission of popular movements: to work locally, side by side with your neighbors, organizing among yourselves, to make your communities thrive.

A few months ago in Rome, we talked at the third World Meeting of Popular Movements about walls and fear, about bridges and love.[1] Without wanting to repeat myself, these issues do challenge our deepest values.

We know that none of these ills began yesterday. For some time, the crisis of the prevailing paradigm has confronted us. I am speaking of a system that causes enormous suffering to the human family, simultaneously assaulting people’s dignity and our Common Home in order to sustain the invisible tyranny of money that only guarantees the privileges of a few. “In our time humanity is experiencing a turning-point in its history.”[2]

As Christians and all people of good will, it is for us to live and act at this moment. It is “a grave responsibility, since certain present realities, unless effectively dealt with, are capable of setting off processes of dehumanization which would then be hard to reverse.”[3] These are signs of the times that we need to recognize in order to act. We have lost valuable time: time when we did not pay enough attention to these processes, time when we did not resolve these destructive realities. Thus the processes of dehumanization accelerate. The direction taken beyond this historic turning-point—the ways in which this worsening crisis gets resolved—will depend on people’s involvement and participation and, largely, on yourselves, the popular movements.
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Video: Arturo Sosa Addresses Latin American Theologians in Boston

Arturo Sosa is the current head of the worldwide Jesuit order. (Pope Francis is a Jesuit. The movie Silence is the story of Jesuits in Japan in the 1600s.)

This 5-minute video by Sosa gives context and direction to the leadership Pope Francis is offering the church and the world.

It was part of a unique gathering that just concluded at Boston College on the theology of Latin America. See an excerpt from the press release below:

The weeklong conference examined the role of liberation theology as Pope Francis and the Catholic Church respond to issues of globalization, migration and economic exclusion, said Boston College School of Theology and Ministry professor Rafael Luciani, a co-organizer of the conference with his Boston College colleague, professor Felix Palazzi.

Luciani said the theologians – among them professors, priests and Vatican officials – will return to their communities in the U.S., Latin America, and Spain with a renewed commitment to the Pope’s reforms and a deeper understanding of the pontiff’s own thinking, rooted in the “theology of the people” and liberation theology.

Two papal representatives, Cardinal Baltazar Porras, of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, and Bishop Raúl Biord Castillo, SDB, together will present the group’s work to Pope Francis. Research and analysis from the theologians is scheduled to publish in a book later this year, said Luciani, a lay theologian from Venezuela.

The work of the conference is of particular importance in efforts to better serve Hispanic Catholics, who make up the fastest growing demographic in the U.S. church. Worldwide, more than 65 percent of Catholics live in the “Global South,” which includes Latin America and Africa.

Attending the conference were some of the leading figures in the birth of liberation theology, including Juan Carlos Scannone, SJ, a founding philosopher of the “theology of the people” and the pope’s seminary instructor, and Notre Dame University Professor Gustavo Gutiérrez, OP, regarded as the founder of liberation theology.

Fr. Scannone reminded participants that the pope has called the poor “protagonists” and “makers of history.” He told the conference: “The poor should not just feel at home in church. They should feel like the heart of the Church.”

 

Ched Myers: Lay Bare the Root

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“Radical Discipleship is about nothing more and nothing less than laying bare the roots of the personal and socio-political pathologies of our imperial society and its dead-end history, even as we seek to recover the roots of our deep biblical tradition: namely, the messianic movement of rebellion and restoration, of repentance and renewal, a ‘Way out of no way’ that has been going on since the dawn of resistance to the dusk of empire.” —Ched Myers, Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries

Jan. 30: Gandhian Resistance by Joan Chittister

gandhiJANUARY 30, ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF MAHATMA GANDHI

Mahatma Gandhi is a strong, unwavering figure whose light has lit many a road. Martin Luther King, Jr and the Civil Rights Movement walked the way that Gandhi led and brought segregation to an end. Cesar Chavez and the migrant farmworkers walked the way that Gandhi led and made Hispanic farmworkers a power to be reckoned with rather than an invisible minority to be exploited. The peace movement around the world has walked the way that Gandhi led and forced the end of the Vietnam War, the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, the fall of the Marcos regime in the Philippines, and the end of nuclear innocence.

Gandhi asked us to critique government and law according to a higher law. Gandhi reminded us to be patient with others, to do no one harm, to pursue truth with passion.

Gandhi demands that our political involvement and our personal responses be based on a spirituality so deep, a spiritual attunement so constant, a spiritual vision so broad that no personal ambition, no selfish gains, no parochial interests corrupt the depth of our commitment nor the openness of our hearts. No seed ever sees the flower, Zen teaches. Those who follow Gandhi, may, like him, never know their successes. But like Gandhi, too, they will never really know defeat.—by Joan Chittister (adapted from A Passion for Life: Fragments of the Face of God; Orbis, Devotional Edition)

Track Trump and Other Useful Spiritual Tools in an Age of Political Chaos

trowel-1My head spins, my stomach sickens, and my heart hurts when I dip in to all the political chaos with real life consequences coming from the Trump administration. It’s hard to sort news from political theater (both from the administration and from the reactionists).

I’m determined to be a good steward of my emotional and spiritual energy during this season of hate. For me, that means staying informed in a concise, not emotional manner and using my energy wisely in determining effective responses and — more importantly — effective leadership in the direction we want as a community or country to go.

Number one item is prayer and rooting ourselves in the biblical narrative and rituals. These will remind us that we’ve been in seasons like this before. This will encourage us that God sees, hears, remembers, and knows.

Torah scholar Avivah Zornberg writes: “The basic requirement for freedom (‘redemption’) is the awareness of ‘exile,’ the groan of conscious alienation. To be in exile and not to feel it—this needs a ‘great salvation.’” (The Particulars of Rapture).

Many American Christians are just waking up to their exile. (Others have known the experience for a long time.)

Here are some helpful tools I’ve found for responsibly keeping track of Trump administration actions while protecting my soul and spiritual life from the corrosion of the political theater:

Best podcast/radio show for understanding media, coverage of Trump administration, and tracking the story beneath the story is WNYC’s On the Media with Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield.

Best site for keeping up on policy movement. Track Trump – This site was established by 4 computer geek and history guys who “believe it is important that citizens have the ability to understand and follow in real-time policy changes that will impact their lives.”

Over the first 100 days of the Trump administration they “will track and document the policies put into place by the Trump administration,” concentrating on tracking the specific policy pledges from the Trump campaign’s “Contract with the American Voter.” These include policies on: immigration, trade, economics, energy and climate, federal government, education, healthcare, and safety. Track Trump’s goal is to “isolate actual policy changes from rhetoric and political theater.”

At Track Trump you’ll find links to primary sources (memos of executive actions, transcripts, etc). What you will not find is analysis or implications or consequences from actions taken by the Trump administration. Also Track Trump does not track policy actions that are not part of the core themes in Mr. Trump’s Contract with the American Voter.

I signed up for Trump Tracker immediately. It helps me cut through the public chaos.

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FacingHistoryDemocracyToolbox760x570Another good place to look is the New York Times’ Tracking Trump’s Agenda, Step by Step. This site is updated regularly to track President Trump’s action “on several of his major priorities, but most of his proposals require moves by Congress or pose other significant obstacles. Possible paths are described below, though other options exist.” You do not have to be a NYT subscriber to get email updates from this site.

This site tracks policies but also tells you what has to happen next. For example, Mr. Trump has signed an executive memorandum to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline and the next step is that it must be approved by the State Department. I wish this site sent you to primary source material on the topics it covers. It sends you to NYT articles covering the topics instead. But combined the Trump Tracker, this covers a lot of information in a clear way.

(There is also a page tracking Mr. Trump’s Cabinet that lists the members, their positions, and whether they are appointees or must go through a confirmation process and dates and times of confirmation hearings.)

**

Here’s a good article on tracking Trump and national security and international affairs. Tracking Trump’s National-Security Conflicts of Interest by Caroline Houck at Defense One, which is run by Atlantic Media (The Atlantic, National Journal, Quartz). Defense One “delivers news, breaking analysis and ideas on the topics and trends that will define the future of U.S. defense and national security.” Houck’s article is “as complete an accounting of Trump’s overseas financial interests as could be gleaned from open-source reporting, including the financial disclosure form he filed as a presidential candidate.” Houck will update the article as information comes to light about Mr. Trump’s financial interests, including projects that are cancelled or moving ahead. This site also provides fairly decent analysis of national security issues, but I appreciate it for the links to primary sources. (The Sunlight Foundation is another excellent source of information on this, especially Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest, but the information is not as well organized.)

A few sites or articles  worth checking are: Politifacts’ Trump-O-Meter that tracks Mr. Trump’s campaign promises and Vice’s All the Laws and Executive Orders Trump Has Signed So Far.

I have not found a good aggregator of lawsuits initiated in response to Trump administration policies. If you find one, let me know. And if you’ve found other helpful tools for responsible engagement, please add them in the comments below.

HuffPo: Why These People of Faith Are Marching for Women This Weekend

Rose Marie Berger, 52

PHOTO: RICK REINHARD

Washington D.C., Senior associate editor at Sojourners magazine

Marching in Washington D.C. with Sojourners, Swamp Revolt, and members of the U.S. faith community

What is your faith background and what role did it play in your decision to join the march?

I am a Roman Catholic lay woman. My faith has motivated me to stand in solidarity with those who have been targeted by President Trump and his administration. Pope Francis said that the “life of a Christian ought to be courageous.” He warned Christians not to be “parked Christians,” who have found the church lot and then just safely stay there waiting for the end. I’m trying to be a courageous Catholic.

What is it about Trump that concerns you the most?

My neighbors in Washington D.C. who are immigrants tell me they are very afraid. They are harassed in the grocery store, in the taxi, on the bus. Our churches are organizing in immigrant communities in anticipation of increased ICE raids and the repeal of the DACA/DAPA executive action. I’m very concerned about what will happen to police accountability, training, and oversight under a new director of the Department of Justice. And I don’t want my nieces and nephews to learn behavior from a president who insults, bullies, harasses, and is vindictive.

Read more from HuffPost Religion on why people of faith  are planning to join the Women’s March on Washington and what concerned them most about Trump’s vision for America.

Pro-Life Christians Protest Death Penalty at Supreme Court

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Forty years after the first execution of Gary Gilmore under contemporary laws, 18 pro-life people of faith were arrested at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday — including Sojourners colleagues Lisa Sharon Harper and Peter Armstrong.

The group unfurled a 30-foot-long banner that read “STOP EXECUTIONS!” on the steps of the Court.  On the sidewalk, a crowd of over 80 supporters observed the action, carrying 40 posters (1 for each year) with the names of the other 1442 men and women executed since 1977.

They also carried roses in two colors, a reminder that they are remembering both families of the murdered and families of the executed as they stand together saying, as one banner did, “We Remember the Victims, But Not With More Killing.”

The group included several murder victim family members, a death row exoneree, family members of the incarcerated, pastors and religious leaders, and national leaders in the death penalty abolition movement. It was the largest act of civil disobedience against the death penalty in modern history.

Shane Claiborne, influential Christian author and activist, speaking of the significance of religious leaders, said this:  “Sadly, the death penalty has succeeded in America not in spite of Christians but because of us.  Over 80% of executions in the past 40 years have been in the Bible Belt.  As a Christian, that is especially troubling because one of the tenants of our faith is this: No one is beyond redemption.  Much of the Bible was written by murderers who were given a second chance. Moses. David. Paul.  The Bible would be much shorter without grace.  So it was a beautiful thing to stand alongside my fellow clergy and faith leaders…  And, if you go to jail, it’s good to have a nun and a priest next to you.  As we look at history, we are reminded that we’ve got good company among the holy troublemakers who have gone to jail for justice.  Abortion is not the only pro-life issue.”

Those arrested were Peter Armstrong (Sojourners, Washington, DC), Leroy Barber (Portland, OR), Abraham J. Bonowitz (Columbus, OH), SueZann Bosler (Miami, FL), Shawn Casselberry (Chicago, IL), Shane Claiborne (Philadelphia, PA), John Dear (Santa Fe, NM), Randy Gardner (Taylorsville, UT), Lisa Sharon Harper (Sojourners, Washington, DC), Derrick Jamison (Cincinnati, OH), Art Laffin (Washington, DC), Scott Langley (Ghent, NY), Michael McBride (Oakland, CA), Tom Muther (Topeka, KS), Doug Pagitt (Minneapolis, MN), Jack Payden-Travers (Lynchburg, VA), Sam R. Sheppard (Oakland, CA), and Kelton Tupper (Cheverly, MD).

Those arrested spent 30 grueling hours in D.C. lock-up with the Supreme Court police, D.C. Dept. of Corrections Central Cell Block, and in the holding cells of D.C. Superior Court. They were arraigned on Wednesday afternoon arraigned in chains before Judge Staples in D.C. Superior Court. They were charged with “parading” and given a “stay away order” from the grounds of the Supreme Court. A status hearing was set for Feb. 24.

Since 1977, there have been 1442 more state-sponsored executions. Nearly 3,000 prisoners are currently on death rows in 31 states.

Pope Francis: ‘The life of a Christian ought to be courageous’

be-courageous-t-shirt2“We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of hope until the end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience are inheriting the promises.”–Hebrews 6:11

Yesterday Pope Francis gave this homily at morning Mass at Casa Marta on the daily scripture from Hebrews 6:10-20. I took courage from it as we enter the days of the Inauguration and Women’s March here in D.C., where our friends are threatened and harassed in taxis, public transportation, in their churches, etc.

From Independent Catholic News:

The life of a Christian ought to be courageous, Pope Francis said during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta on Tuesday. The day’s reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, speaks about zeal, the courage to go forward, which should be our approach toward life, like the attitude of those who train for victory in the arena. But the Letter also speaks of the laziness that is the opposite of courage. “Living in the fridge,” the Pope summarised, “so that everything stays the same.”

“Lazy Christians, Christians who do not have the will to go forward, Christians who don’t fight to make things change, new things, the things that would do good for everyone, if these things would change. They are lazy, “parked” Christians. They have found in the Church a good place to park. And when I say Christians, I’m talking about laity, priests, bishops… Everyone. But they are parked Christians! For them the Church is a parking place that protects life, and they go forward with all the insurance possible. But these stationary Christians, they make me think of something the grandparents told us as children: beware of still water, that which doesn’t flow, it is the first to go bad.”

What makes Christians courageous is hope, while the “lazy Christians” don’t have hope, they are in retirement, the Pope said. It is beautiful to go into retirement after many years of work, but, he warned, “spending your whole life in retirement is ugly!” Hope, on the other hand, is the anchor that we cling to in order to keep fighting, even in difficult moments.
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Get Trained on January 20th – Be an ACTIVE BYSTANDER

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Learn more here: https://swamprevolt.wordpress.com/2017/01/06/jan-20-trainings/

This is what I’ll be doing on Inauguration Day. I’ve teamed up with doula Amy Ard, founder of Swamp Revolt, to organize 25 simultaneous “nonviolence and active bystander intervention” trainings on Jan. 20th in the D.C. region.

Our big, hairy, audacious goal is to train 2,500 people who are coming to D.C. for Inauguration protests and the Women’s March on Washington.

Please pray for us an our crazy endeavor! On Jan. 7 we organized a “training for trainers” and 108 people registered with less than a week’s notice. As of last night, we’ve deployed 68 people in training teams and matched them with more than 20 locations in Maryland, Virginia, and the District.

We are going big on this one!

Please promote this in your networks–especially local organizations that you know are sending buses and people to D.C.