March 7: Feast Day of Perpetua and Felicity

Perpetua was a 22 year old married Christian woman who lived in Carthage (modern day Tunisia) during the first century. She had given birth to a son a few months before she was arrested for her faith, under the persecutions of Septimus Severus.

Excerpt from Perpetua’s diary:

While we were still under arrest (she said) my father out of love for me was trying to persuade me and shake my resolution. ‘Father,’ said I, ‘do you see this vase here, for example, or waterpot or whatever?’

‘Yes, I do’, said he.

And I told him: ‘Could it be called by any other name than what it is?’

And he said: ‘No.’

‘Well, so too I cannot be called anything other than what I am, a Christian.’

A pregnant slave, Felicity, with her husband Revocatus and six other African Christian men were also arrested. The group were kept together in a house for several weeks, during which time Felicity had her baby. Around this day in 202, they were gathered together and taken to the games. Contemporary accounts say they left joyfully ‘as though they were on their way to heaven’.

The group were all killed by wild animals in front of the crowds. Perpetua and Felicity are said to have clung to each other and prayed so much that they became unaware of what was happening to them. Both were mauled by a heifer. The men were killed by leopards and bears. Perpetua had her throat cut by a gladiator.

The feast of these martyrs soon became very famous throughout the Christian world. It was recorded in the Roman and Syriac calenders as well as in the Martyrology of St Jerome. In 1907 an inscription in their honour was discovered in Carthage in the Basilica Majorum where they were buried.

Podcast: Rethinking Just War with Fr. Claude Mostowik

Fr. Claude Mostowik, Pax Christi Australia with Rose in Rome 2016.
Fr. Claude Mostowik, Pax Christi Australia with Rose in Rome 2016.

At the Vatican conference on Just Peace, held in April, I was so pleased to meet Fr. Claude (left), a leader in Catholic social justice movements in Australia-Oceania. He has a delightful artistic eye and brought a stunning image of the Aboriginal Christ by Richard Campbell into our gathering.

Fr. Claude is working with Asylum seekers in Australia who are living in brutal conditions under the anti-immigrant policies of the government. On the eve of ANZAC day, an event marking Australian and New Zealanders involved in military action in World War I, Fr. Claude participated in a discussion on national radio about how we can “rethink just war.” See more below and listen to the podcast.

Last week amidst the news of the Pope’s latest message on the family, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International hosted a conference titled “Nonviolence and Just Peace: Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment to Nonviolence.”

The three day encounter brought together some 80 theologians and peace activists from many conflict zones, including Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Colombia, Pakistan and the Philippines.

The goal of the conference was to explore ways in which their positive experiences of non-violent activism can shape theological thinking and Catholic teaching in schools, universities, seminaries and parishes, moving away from ‘Just War’ towards the concept of a ‘Just Peace’.

In a message sent to the meeting Pope Francis praised the initiative of “revitalising the tools of nonviolence”.

Around the world it raised headlines suggesting that the Catholic Church was moving to shift ground on one of it’s most venerable teachings, the Just War Doctrine.

So on this eve of ANZAC day, marking Australians participation in the War to End Wars, we are taking a look at just what sort of new thinking may be on the horizon.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST

Ryan Hammill: Could Pope Francis Be Ready to Throw Out Just War Theory?

Cardinal Turkson celebrates Mass at Just Peace conference in Rome, April 2016 (Pax Christi International)
Cardinal Turkson celebrates Mass at Just Peace conference in Rome, April 2016 (Pax Christi International)

A shout out to Ryan Hammill who wrote a great post Could Pope Francis Be Ready to Throw Out Just War Theory? following up on the Catholics, Nonviolence, and Just Peace conference in Rome in April. Below are some of the quotes he included from me. Check here for more media round up on the conference.

But Rose Marie Berger, who wrote one of the background papers for the conference (and serves as an editor for Sojourners) remarked that the push to move past just war theory originated among people experiencing violence themselves.

“Too often the ‘just war theory’ has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war.”

“At our meeting in Rome in April we heard a clear call from Catholics in the majority world and in situations of extreme conflict that the Church’s teaching on war and peace was not only insufficient to the level of violence they are facing but it was, in some cases, contributing to that violence.”

She said she would welcome an encyclical on peace and nonviolence from Pope Francis.

“The church is thirsting for fresh teaching here and hungering for this conversation,” she said. An encyclical would not only “add to the church’s wisdom,” but also prompt a “world-wide conversation.”

“Pope Francis has made it clear that ‘peace’ is the third pillar of his legacy,” Berger said.

Read Ryan’s whole article.

 

Laudato Z’ine Makes Debut at Vatican

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Spotted in Rome at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

The Vati-Cats and Laudato Zi’ne debuted in Rome last week. (If you haven’t been keeping track of this popular “zine” version of Pope Francis’ teaching on climate change, then check out Laudato Z’ine and the Vati-Cats.)

Before I left from D.C., Heidi folded another 50 copies of Laudato Z’ine and I packed them in my suitcase. When I arrived in Rome for the conference on Catholics, Nonviolence, and Just Peace, I casually put a few out on the display table. Soon they were all gone. Then I gave a copy to some folks in particular. So now it should be tucked away in the carry-alls of a few bishops in Africa, professors in the Philippines, a nun in Iraq, and several others.

But its special debut was at the Pontifical Office on Justice and Peace (see photo above). We were there to do some more official business, but … well, what would Francis do? So I tucked a copy in the magazine rack outside Cardinal Turkson’s office. Who knows where it might end up!

Oh yes. And there were a LOT of cats in Rome.

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Landmark Vatican conference rejects just war theory, asks for encyclical on nonviolence

Bandiera_paceI’m pleased to share news of our phenomenal gathering this week in Rome. Please read the article from the National Catholic Reporter (below). We have had a tremendous week. Today we were able to deliver the final document to the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace. Marie Dennis addressed an envelope to Papa Francesco containing the statement and a personal letter and it was placed on Cardinal Turkson’s desk for delivery.

Tomorrow a few of us will take the train to Assisi to bring the fruits of this work for peace to the feet of Saints Francis and Clare.

Thank you to everyone who has been holding this gathering in prayer. Your prayers have been heard. More later.–Rose Berger

Landmark Vatican conference rejects just war theory, asks for encyclical on nonviolence
by Joshua J. McElwee

The participants of a first-of-its-kind Vatican conference have bluntly rejected the Catholic church’s long-held teachings on just war theory, saying they have too often been used to justify violent conflicts and the global church must reconsider Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence.

Members of a three-day event co-hosted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the international Catholic peace organization Pax Christi have also strongly called on Pope Francis to consider writing an encyclical letter, or some other “major teaching document,” reorienting the church’s teachings on violence.

“There is no ‘just war,'” the some 80 participants of the conference state in an appeal they released Thursday morning.

“Too often the ‘just war theory’ has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war,” they continue. “Suggesting that a ‘just war’ is possible also undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacities for nonviolent transformation of conflict.”

“We need a new framework that is consistent with Gospel nonviolence,” say the participants, noting that Francis and his four predecessors have all spoken out against war often. “We propose that the Catholic Church develop and consider shifting to a Just Peace approach based on Gospel nonviolence.”

Read the whole article here.

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”

Poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner: Art v. Climate Tyranny

Twenty-six year old poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, from the Marshall Islands, addressed the Opening Ceremony of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit last year. She performed this video poem entitled “Dear Matafele Peinem,” written to her daughter. The poem received a standing ovation. Kathy is also a teacher, journalist and founder of the environmental NGO, Jo-jikum.

Art is the only thing that can stand in the way of tyranny.

Twelve Pacific Climate Warriors walked from Assisi to Rome last week and are praying in St. Peter’s Square. The Peoples’ Pilgrimage will then continue their walk to Paris in time for the UN climate talks.

Via Crucis: ‘That Weighty Cross’

crosswithclothOn Good Friday, Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome, led the Via Crucis, or Way of the Cross, service at the Roman Colosseum, where thousands accompanied Christ’s path to the Cross by the light of candles and torches.

From the Palatine Hill Pope Francis listened to the reflections that accompanied each of the fourteen stations, dedicated this year to the economic crisis that afflicts many countries, to immigration, poverty, and the situation of women and the marginalized in today’s world.

The cross was carried to the various stations by a worker and a businessman, two immigrants, two homeless people, two detainees, two former drug addicts, two patients, two children, a family, two elderly people, two nuns, the Custodians of the Holy Land and, in the first and last stations, the Cardinal Archbishop of Rome, Agostino Vallini.

At the end the Pope addressed some unscripted remarks to the participants:

“God placed on Jesus’ Cross all the weight of our sins, all the injustice perpetrated by every Cain against his brother, all the bitterness of the betrayals of Judas and Peter, all the vanity of tyrants, all the arrogance of false friends. It was a heavy Cross, like the night of abandoned people, as heavy as the death of loved ones, heavy because it carried all the ugliness of evil. However it is also a glorious Cross, like the dawn after a long night, as it represents all of God’s love, which is greater than our iniquity and our betrayals. In the Cross we see the monstrosity of man, when we allow ourselves to be guided by evil; but we also see the immensity of God’s mercy; He does not treat us according to our sins, but according to His mercy.

Before the Cross of Christ, we see, we can almost touch with our hands how much we are eternally loved; before the Cross, we feel like ‘children’ and not ‘things ‘ or objects, as St. Gregory of Nazianzus affirmed when he turned to Christ with this prayer: ‘If it were not for you, O my Christ, I would feel as a finished creature. … O, our Jesus, guide us from the Cross to the Resurrection and teach us that evil will not have the last word, but rather love, mercy, and forgiveness. O Christ, teach us to exclaim anew, “Yesterday I was crucified with Christ; today I am glorified with Him”’.

And in the end, all together, let us recall the sick, let us think of all those people abandoned beneath the weight of the Cross, so that they might find in the trial of the Cross the strength of hope, of the hope of the Resurrection and the love of God.”

Leaping Pointy-Headed Clerics in a Single Bound?

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“Pope Francis as superman, flying through the air with his white cape billowing out behind him, the image graffitied by an anonymous artist onto a wall in Rome was tweeted by the Vatican today.

Speeding forwards with his fist raised, the heroic pontiff – crucifix swinging in the wind – carries his trademark black bag, with the word “values” written across it, in Spanish, in white letters.

“We share with you graffiti found in a Roman street near the Vatican,” the Pontifical Council for Social Communications from the Holy See said on its official Twitter page.”

Read Pope as superman: Vatican tweets graffiti of hero pontiff

President of LCWR Addresses Global Gathering of Catholic Sisters

florencedeaconIn Rome on May 4, the president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Sr. Florence Deacon, addressed 800 leaders of women religious throughout the world.

“Serious misunderstandings” exist between Vatican officials and Catholic sisters, said the head of the U.S. sisters’ group that was ordered to place itself under the review of bishops.

Deacon’s 20-minute address was LCWR’s most public statement to date of their relations with the Vatican. Women religious around the world are watching closely how the process between the Vatican and LCWR moves forward.

“It’s had a huge impact in Australia,” Mercy Sr. Catherine Ryan from Australia told the National Catholic Reporter. “We watch it very carefully because the LCWR … has huge significance for our lives,” said Ryan. “I don’t see that the religious women in Australia are any different than the religious women in America.”

Here’s an excerpt from Sr. Deacon’s address:

“What this assessment shows is that there is serious misunderstanding between officials of the Vatican and women religious, and the need for prayer, discernment, and deep listening.

We determined that we would do this negotiation outside of the glare of the media and we turned down thousands of requests. We could have been on every news program on every major channel in every part of the world if we would have said yes. Continue reading “President of LCWR Addresses Global Gathering of Catholic Sisters”