May is the Month to Amplify Active Nonviolence in the U.S. Catholic Church

Nonviolent Peaceforce in South Sudan

Catholics and others around the U.S. have an opportunity in May to write to their local Catholic bishop to encourage them to teach and preach on active gospel nonviolence. This is part of the global outreach offered by the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative to support the Catholic Church in re-centering Gospel nonviolence in Catholic life and faith.

Social concerns committees, diocesan social justice directors, youth groups, and individuals can host letter-writing events in May at churches, coffee hours, prayer groups, and other key gatherings.

Write the bishop of your diocese in May. (And you don’t have to be Catholic to join in. See bottom of post.)

Instruments of Reconciliation: A National Campaign to Amplify Active Nonviolence in the U.S. Catholic Church

See here for more details, sample letter, and to report your action.

Three suggested dates below in the month of May have been chosen in the United States to ask Catholics and other concerned Christians to share their hope for greater teaching and commitment to active nonviolence with their local bishop and invite him to affirm active nonviolence as the “nucleus of the Christian revolution” by:

1: Sharing and speaking about Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace message broadly within their diocese, seminaries, and other ministries

2: Concretely committing to an initiative to scale-up practices of active nonviolence within his diocese.

As Pope Benedict wrote, “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behavior but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the ‘Christian revolution.’”

We want to support our Bishops in their efforts, like Pope Francis, who pledged the assistance of the church in “every effort to build peace through active and creative nonviolence.”

Some dioceses – such as the Archdiocese of Chicago – are already experimenting with a commitment to a culture of nonviolence and practical steps to greater active nonviolence to address tensions and crime within the diocese. Pope Francis wrote them a letter of encouragement.

May 3 is the anniversary of The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response (1983), the Bishop’s pastoral letter.
May 8 is the birthday for Daniel Berrigan (b. 1921) and Sophie Scholl (b. 1921).
May 20 is the Feast of Austrian conscientious objector and martyr Franz Jagerstatter who was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.

See here for more details, sample letter, and to report your action.

Please share.

What if I’m not Catholic and I want to participate? Thank you! The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative welcomes support from all people of good conscience who want to see greater teaching from the Catholic Church on effective and active Gospel nonviolence.

You do not need to be Catholic to ask you local Catholic bishop for greater teaching on this. Search for your Catholic diocese’s web site to find the address of the local Catholic bishop.

Pope Francis’ 4 Principles for Social Peace

I’m grateful to Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore for inviting me to speak at their spring gathering. I decided to focus on Pope Francis’ four principles for building social peace and interlace them with stories, both personal and from the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative. Here’s a tiny excerpt of my presentation:

Our Storied Future by Rose Marie Berger

I’m not a big one for reading church encyclicals, much less “apostolic exhortations.” But because I was excited about Pope Francis and I wanted to write about him for my work at Sojourners magazine, I decided to read the Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Guadium) when it came out in 2013. This was a project that started under Pope Benedict and was taken up by Pope Francis.

I wasn’t expecting a whole lot, but my marginal notes on the print out tell a different story.

I was really excited about what I read there. Amid my exhaustion and political anxiety, the Joy of the Gospel “spoke to my condition,” as the Quakers say—in particular the section in Chapter 4, on “The Common Good and Peace in Society.”

I experienced a strange fluttering within that I later identified as HOPE.

Pope Francis identified four principles that he said he did “out of the conviction that their application can be a genuine path to peace within each nation and in the entire world.” Wow! With the eternal appeal of a List-icle that made me sit up!

Here are Pope Francis’s four principles for building social peace:

  • Time is greater than space reminds us that it is less important to dominate a space or claim a position than it is to generate positive processes that unfold and regenerate over time.
  • Unity prevails over conflict. Conflict exists, but it is undergirded and surrounded by unity. We must always be looking for the synthesis that will take us forward.
  • Realities are more important than ideas reminds us to avoid constructing abstractions that are separated from what people are actually experiencing. That’s why we begin with people’s stories.
  • The whole is greater than the part is an invitation to understand that our concerns and perspective are always local and partial. We must hold them in a broader and more inclusive framework.

I researched where these principles came from and couldn’t find a solid source. They are embedded in Catholic Social Teaching but have been refined by Jorge Bergoglio over years. I found reference to him using a version of them in the 1980s in Buenos Aires, when Argentina was trying to reweave its social fabric after the excruciating internal “Dirty War” and the war with Britain over the Falkland Islands. My friend and scholar Gerald Schlabach at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis has written eloquently on them and I’ve drawn on his work.

This morning, I’d like to walk through each principle and tell a few stories that I think illuminate the life of Jorge Bergoglio as well as our own lives, and perhaps give us a glimpse of where we are going as we walk into the future with Jesus, Martin, and Francis, especially as practitioners and evangelizers of active gospel nonviolence. …–Rose Marie Berger

Pope Calls For Nonviolence in 2017 World Day of Peace Message

Pope calls for nonviolence in 2017 World Day of Peace message
U.S. religious leaders respond

Today in his message “Nonviolence: A style of politics for peace,” for the 50th World Day of Peace, celebrated each year on 1 January, Pope Francis urges people everywhere to practice active nonviolence and notes that the “decisive and consistent practice of nonviolence has produced impressive results.”

Pope Francis writes: “The decisive and consistent practice of nonviolence has produced impressive results. The achievements of Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in the liberation of India, and of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in combating racial discrimination will never be forgotten. Women in particular are often leaders of nonviolence, as for example, was Leymah Gbowee and the thousands of Liberian women, who organized pray-ins and nonviolent protest that resulted in high-level peace talks to end the second civil war in Liberia.

“Nor can we forget the eventful decade that ended with the fall of Communist regimes in Europe. The Christian communities made their own contribution by their insistent prayer and courageous action. Particularly influential were the ministry and teaching of Saint John Paul II. Reflecting on the events of 1989 in his 1991 Encyclical Centesimus Annus, my predecessor highlighted the fact that momentous change in the lives of people, nations and states had come about “by means of peaceful protest, using only the weapons of truth and justice”. This peaceful political transition was made possible in part “by the non-violent commitment of people who, while always refusing to yield to the force of power, succeeded time after time in finding effective ways of bearing witness to the truth”. Pope John Paul went on to say: “May people learn to fight for justice without violence, renouncing class struggle in their internal disputes and war in international ones”.

“The Church has been involved in nonviolent peacebuilding strategies in many countries, engaging even the most violent parties in efforts to build a just and lasting peace. Such efforts on behalf of the victims of injustice and violence are not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone, but are typical of many religious traditions, for which “compassion and nonviolence are essential elements pointing to the way of life”. I emphatically reaffirm that “no religion is terrorist”. Violence profanes the name of God. Let us never tire of repeating: “The name of God cannot be used to justify violence. Peace alone is holy. Peace alone is holy, not war!”

U.S. religious leaders and nonviolence scholars and strategists are beginning to respond to Pope Francis’ message:

“There is no place for violence in a heart at peace and in a world that is just. As Pope Francis said, “Everyone can be an artisan of peace. ” We all can cultivate peace by looking within, committing to a spirituality of active nonviolence, by moving beyond our comfort zones to embrace the suffering of the world, and collaborating with others for a sustained just peace.”—Sister Patty Chappell, SNDdeN, executive director of Pax Christi USA

“In this advent time of waiting for the coming of the one who is peace eternal, we are grateful for the challenge of Pope Francis to commit ourselves to peacebuilding through active Gospel nonviolence. Let us join in solidarity with all who know the injustice of violence, oppression, and poverty to build God’s beloved community.”—Ann Scholz, SSND, Associate Director for Social Mission, Leadership Conference of Women Religious

“With his breathtaking World Day of Peace Message, Pope Francis has broken new ground by calling on people everywhere to unleash the power of active nonviolence as a way of life and as an effective alternative to the scourge of violence. This first official papal document on active nonviolence offers a way forward to build a more just, peaceful and sustainable world.”—Ken Butigan, senior lecturer, DePaul University, Chicago and Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service staff
Continue reading “Pope Calls For Nonviolence in 2017 World Day of Peace Message”

Video: Live Chat with Rose Berger & Betsy Shirley on Catholic Nonviolence Initiative

Here’s a 30 minute chat with Sojourners editors Rose Berger and Betsy Shirley on the “Game Changer?” cover article in Sojourners’ December 2016 issue. (Link to this video.)

It was great to have live questions from the Facebook audience!

Find out more about the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative and sign an Appeal to the Catholic Church to Recommit to the Centrality of Gospel Nonviolence.

Get ready for the 50th anniversary of the World Day of Peace on the theme of Nonviolence.