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.

If you’d like to join us in prayer, please see the prayer written by Hildegard Goss-Mayr for the occasion.

The National Catholic Reporter ran a story about the conference this afternoon (Vatican to host first-ever conference to reevaluate just war theory, justifications for violence):

Participants say the conference — to be cohosted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the global Catholic peace network Pax Christi International April 11-13 — may recommend displacing the centuries-old just war theory as the main Catholic response to violence.

They also express hope that Pope Francis might take up their conversations by deciding to focus his next encyclical letter, the highest form of teaching for a pontiff, on issues of Catholic peacemaking.

Terrence Rynne, a U.S. theologian who will be attending the event, said he considers it “phenomenally important.”

“Coming out of it, Pope Francis might see his way clear to articulate a fresh vision of peacemaking to the church,” said Rynne, who helped found Marquette University’s Center for Peacemaking. “That would be wonderful.”

A press release went out this morning:

Rome, Italy – The Holy See’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Pax Christi International, and other major Catholic organizations from around the world will convene an unprecedented conference entitled “Nonviolence and Just Peace: Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment to Nonviolence” in Rome, Italy, 11-13 April 2016.

In recognition of the Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis, this carefully planned Catholic conference will include 80 participants who represent a broad spectrum of experiences in peacebuilding and active nonviolence in the face of violence and war.

“We live in a complex world where armed conflicts are pervasive and where violence has become the first (and many times the only) way used to address those conflicts,” said José Henríquez, a member of the planning committee and recent past Secretary General of Pax Christi International. “We need to go back to the sources of our faith and to rediscover the nonviolence which is at the heart of the Gospel. As a global community, we need to foster the creative imagination to build merciful societies where nonviolence is the norm and not the exception.”

Conference participants from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Australia and the Americas will envision concrete ways the Catholic Church can deepen its understanding of and commitment to active nonviolence in its teaching and practice worldwide, including an explicit rejection of “just war” thinking in favor of an alternative ethical framework engaging acute conflict with nonviolent conflict transformation and just peace.

The conference seeks to foster a global conversation on nonviolence with the larger world to respond to today’s epidemic of violence and injustice with strategies of nonviolent peacemaking and peacebuilding.


  1. We don’t know if anyone from the Catholic Worker movement was invited to this conference, but we decided to publish a special edition of our Oklahoma City Catholic Worker newsletter, and sent 100 copies for delivery on Monday at the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace in the hopes that they will be distributed to the delegates. Here is an online copy of the broadsheet. http://www.justpeace.org/cwapr2016.pdf Love the VatiCats. Will make zine copies.


    • Hi Bob,
      There will be Catholic Worker “affiliates” there and the UK Pax Christi folks are also CW connected. I’m SO pleased that you printed a special issue and sent them to Rome. That is absolutely beautiful! If I don’t see them delivered then I’ll try to get some printed from the link you sent. And we made extra copies of LaudatoZine to distribute to whomsoever will …. Blessings and peace.


  2. I was just sent info about the conference in Rome and I was wondering when/if Catholic teachings and theology would incorporate the voices of veterans and soldiers. It seems like it may be in danger of silencing or glossing over the reality of war, in which those who fight are written out of any discussions of peace.

    Is it too late to make sure the realty of military service and how it influences how pacifists like you and I talk about peace and theology makes it into the conference? I know it is days away, but information was not circulated very widely, or perhaps was only circulated in certain circles.

    I hope that the millions of people who are affected by war as perpetrators, and who have a stake in making peace (not just for their physical well being, but spiritually as well), are not overlooked or ignored. I remember we had a conversation like this 5 years ago, so I am looking forward to ensuring we can learn from past oversights.



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