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 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.
Continue reading “Pope Francis to World Popular Movements First U.S. Meeting”

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.”

 

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.
Continue reading “Pope Francis: ‘The life of a Christian ought to be courageous’”

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”

Just War, Just Peace, Just Catholic: A Gathering in Rome

Bandiera_paceHere’s the news. I’m headed to Rome (Italy, not Georgia) on Saturday, for a week to participate in the first-ever Vatican conference on Nonviolence and Just Peace: Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment to Nonviolence, co-sponsored by Pax Christi International and the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace.

I was asked to contribute a backgrounder paper titled “No Longer Legitimating War: Christians and Just Peace,” which (by the skin of my teeth and lots of help) I did.

I’ll be gathering with other Catholics, mostly from the majority world (and majority church), who live their Catholic faith and practice peace in the midst of civil war and extreme social violence.

Pope Francis has encouraged us to “put reality before ideas.” In the case of this conference, we’ll listen first to the lived experience of Catholics sorting out their salvation in midst of men with guns and then asking what scripture and church tradition has to offer to their experience. Continue reading “Just War, Just Peace, Just Catholic: A Gathering in Rome”

Shoes of the Fisherman: Pope Francis Sends Shoes to Climate Talks

shoes“Two black shoes belonging to Pope Francis have joined thousands of other pairs at an installation in Paris on Sunday, as part of a global campaign ahead of the UN climate summit in the French capital next week.

The installation is one of more than 2,300 events taking place in countries around the world as part of the Global Climate March, on the eve of the Paris summit. It was arranged by the worldwide citizen’s network Avaaz, after police cancelled a planned demonstration citing security concerns.

In cities across the globe hundreds of thousands of people have already taken to the streets to urge their leaders to commit to 100% clean energy sources by the year 2050.” From Vatican Radio (29 Nov 2015)

Read more here.

Oscar Rodriguez: Romero and Pope Francis

cardinal-rodriguez-717x450

[Romero’s] prophetic message was that our duty as Christians is to bring the values of the Gospel to life. We have to put our principles into practice, he said. After 30 years from his death and after his recent beatification, Romero’s life and murder is a challenge to us, a challenge to all believers. And I would ask whether we are prepared to actually put that power, the one that comes from following the Lord’s way of life, at the service of others? And to fight for justice for the world’s poor and marginalised, whatever the cost is for our Church? In this particular time that we live in, it is so important to understand and follow what he once said.

Romero on 27th November 1977 said: ‘The violence we preach is not the violence of the sword, the violence of hatred, it is the violence of love, of brotherhood, the violence that wills to turn weapons into sickles for work.’ A couple of months before, on September 25th 1977, he said ‘Let us not tire of preaching love. It is the force that will overcome the world. Let us not tire of preaching love, though we see waves of violence at sea drowning the fire of Christian love, love must win out, it is the only thing that can.’

… Archbishop Romero and Pope Francis seem to follow parallel spiritual and pastoral tracks. Both men share an understanding of the practical implications of seeking God in all things. A sense of openness to
the presence of God in history and the world, including in struggle and discourse. For many of his biographers, Romero’s favourite subject coming from the Gospel was the incarnation of Our Lord. Christ is the Word that became flesh in history and continues doing that. And since that real faith leads to engagement, then some want to keep the gospel so disembodied that it doesn’t get involved at all in the world, it is safe. Christ is now in history, Christ is in the womb of the people, Christ is now bringing about the new heaven and the new earth, Romero wrote.

And if we believe truly in the incarnation of the Word of God, we have to make ours the real and true option for the poor.– Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga,SDB, of Honduras at the 2015 Oscar Romero lecture.

Read From Romero to Francis: The Joy & the Tensions of Becoming a Poor Church with the Poor by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga (October 2015)

Read more about the 2015 Annual Archbishop Romero Lecture organised by the Archbishop Romero Trust.