A War Fought Piecemeal Pope Francis says that we are engaged in “a horrifying world war fought piecemeal”. More violence cannot fix it, but will only cause further suffering, and even the physical and spiritual death of many people. The answer, Francis says in his Message for the 50th World Day of Peace, lies in promoting active and creative nonviolence. Pope Paul VI began the tradition of observing the first day of January as the World Day of Peace. Francis begins his message by affirming the current significance and ongoing urgency of that first message. He describes how the “piecemeal” violence of our times operates at different levels and is of many kinds (n 2). For example, Francis speaks specifically about wars, terrorism, organised crime, trafficking in persons, the exploitation of women and children, environmental degradation, and domestic violence. He says that the origins of all this violence lie in the human heart, in our thoughts and values. Thus violence operates at an individual level, within the family, in local and national communities and in international life. It touches our relationships at all levels (n 2). Jesus’ Message of Nonviolence The title of this year’s message is “Nonviolence: a style of politics for peace”. It is a slightly unusual phrase. Francis describes nonviolence in this way because it is a way of conducting ourselves in the body politic, that is, in our collective relationships (n 1). He stresses that nonviolence is not surrender to evil, a lack of engagement, or passivity. It is an active and creative way of building peace (n 4, 6). Most importantly, Francis says the basis for promoting nonviolence is Christological. Jesus lived in violent times and his message and example were one of nonviolence to the very end, to the cross (n 3). Francis demonstrates this by drawing on Scripture. He goes so far as to say that “to be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence” (n 3). Furthermore, he says that “whoever accepts the Good News of Jesus is able to acknowledge the violence within and be healed by God’s mercy, becoming in turn an instrument of reconciliation” (n 3). Nonviolence is Practical & Realistic Francis rejects the argument that nonviolence is unrealistic. He agrees with Pope Benedict XVI, who says that it is in fact very realistic to acknowledge that there is already too much violence and injustice in the world. It makes sense to respond with more love and more goodness rather than more violence. We break the chain of violence by responding to evil with good. Willingness to love our enemies is at the heart of what Benedict called the “Christian revolution” (n 3). Francis also presents historical examples to demonstrate that nonviolence is practical and has in fact achieved results. He points to Mother Theresa’s witness of active nonviolence in reaching out with great love to those who were suffering, and to her words: “we in our family do not need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace – just get together, love one another …” (n 4). He points to the achievements of Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in the liberation of India from colonisation, and of Dr Martin Luther King Jr in combatting racism in the USA. He acknowledges that often women are leaders in nonviolence, and specifically acknowledges Leymah Gbowee’s leadership in non-violent action that contributed to the end of the second civil war in Liberia. Francis also points to the role of Christian communities in the fall of communist regimes, and especially to the influence of St John Paul II (n 4). The Catholic Church has a long history of involvement in nonviolent peacebuilding strategies around the world – but it is not alone. Francis stresses that this is typical of many religious traditions, and that violence in the name of religion profanes the name of God (n 4). The Role of Families Because the source of violence is in the human heart, it is essential that we practice nonviolence in our families. Families are the first place where we can learn to communicate and show concern for one another and resolve tensions and conflict through “dialogue, respect, concern for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness” (n 5). Drawing links between different levels and kinds of violence, Francis says that the politics of nonviolence must begin in the home and spread to the whole human family. However, too often, families are the first place where we learn violence. This leads Francis to plead with great urgency for “an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children” (n 5). He says this is just as urgent as disarmament and the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons (n 5). Fear, violence, closed-mindedness and nuclear deterrence cannot ground an ethic of fraternity and peaceful coexistence between people and among peoples. Limiting the Use of Force, Building Peace Francis says that “peacebuilding through active nonviolence is the natural and necessary complement to the Church’s continuing efforts to limit the use of force by the application of moral norms” (n 6). Here he brings together two strands of the Catholic peace tradition that are sometimes seen as being in opposition to one another. They are a pacifist or nonviolent stance, and efforts to limit the use of force by proposing moral norms. The “just war” theory seeks to limit the use of force by proposing moral norms to guide decisions to go to war (jus ad bellum) and the use of force within war (jus in bello). There is currently a lot of debate about whether church teaching should abandon the “just war” approach. Some say that this approach has been misused to justify rather than limit the use of force. Others say that it is not possible in the contemporary world to meet all of the requirements of its criteria. Francis distances himself from this way of trying to limit the use of force by […]
World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation In 2015 Pope Francis asked Catholics to join with the Orthodox Church to celebrate the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. It is celebrated on 1 September. Other Christian churches have joined them in it for a number of years. The day is now an annual event in the Catholic Church. As Pope Francis explains, it is a “significant occasion for prayer, reflection, conversion and the adoption of appropriate lifestyles.” Read his message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation here. Now Pope Francis is asking Catholics to join in the Season of Creation 2016. A Catholic Season of Creation 2016 Pope Francis is building on the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation by inviting Catholics to join in celebrating the Season of Creation. The idea of celebrating a Season of Creation began in the Lutheran Church in Adelaide, Australia in 2000. Now it is celebrated by many different churches all over the world. The season embraces the four Sundays of September before the Feast of St Francis of Assisi – 4 October. Norman Habel explains: “The season of Creation offers an opportunity for churches to introduce new visual elements into their worship and to be ecumenical and connected with creation in a particular context.” Read more about the history of the Season of Creation here. Catholic Resources Year C The Columban Mission Institute’s Centre for Peace, Ecology and Justice provides excellent resources for the Season of Creation for Catholic congregations and schools. They include prayer, reflection and action ideas and are linked to the readings in the Catholic lectionary. Download Catholic resources for the Season of Creation 2016 here. More on Catholic Teaching Find out more about Catholic teaching on integral ecology here. Learn about Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ on the care of our common home here. Watch Pope Francis’ Video Pope Francis invites us to pray for the care of creation on 1 September and to take action during the Season of Creation. What action will you take between 1 September and 4 October?
Season of Creation Begins with World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation In 2015 Pope Francis asked Catholics to join with the Orthodox Church to celebrate the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. A number of other Christian churches had already joined them in it for a number of years. Now the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation is an annual event in the Catholic Church too. In fact Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew joined together to make this statement for 2017. As Pope Francis explains, it is a “significant occasion for prayer, reflection, conversion and the adoption of appropriate lifestyles.” Read his message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation here. Celebrated on 1 September, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation now marks the beginning of the Season of Creation. A Catholic Season of Creation The idea of celebrating a Season of Creation began in the Lutheran Church in Adelaide, Australia in 2000. Now many different churches all over the world take part. In 2016 the Catholic Church joined in. The season embraces the four Sundays of September before the Feast of St Francis of Assisi – 4 October. Norman Habel explains: “The season of Creation offers an opportunity for churches to introduce new visual elements into their worship and to be ecumenical and connected with creation in a particular context.” Read more about the history of the Season of Creation here. 2017 Catholic Resources Year A The Columban Mission Institute’s Centre for Peace, Ecology and Justice provides excellent resources for the Season of Creation for Catholic congregations and schools. They include prayer, reflection and action ideas and are linked to the readings in the Catholic lectionary. Download their resources here. 2016 Catholic Resources Year C Download Catholic resources for the Season of Creation 2016 here. More on Catholic Teaching Find out more about Catholic teaching on integral ecology here. Learn about Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ on the care of our common home here. Watch Pope Francis’ Video Pope Francis invites us to pray for the care of creation on 1 September and to take action during the Season of Creation. What action will you take between 1 September and 4 October?
#TeamRefugees at Rio Did you know that a team composed of refugees is competing at the Rio Olympics? With no country to call home they are #TeamRefugees. Read Pope Francis’ letter of support here. Can Sport Contribute to World Peace? In August Pope Francis asks us to pray that sports may be an opportunity for friendly encounters between peoples and may contribute to peace in the world. Watch his video message:
The Feast of the Epiphany occurs on 3 January, just a couple of days after the World Day of Peace. Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace Message for 2016 is titled Overcome Indifference and Win Peace. Reflecting on this Message, and on the Feast of the Epiphany, it seems to me that the Magi offer us three lessons for the New Year. They noticed God’s action, they looked into the meaning of events, and they responded by taking another path. Listen to the podcast or read the text below. 1. Notice God’s Action in the World The Magi saw a new light and followed it. Their first lesson for us is that they noticed. Amid the whirl of events and information, how good have we been at noticing? Have we really noticed the suffering and the hopes of others? Right now there seem to be natural disasters – or perhaps not so entirely natural ones – all around the world. Which of these caught our attention? The suffering and hopes of the people we know, or who seem the most like ourselves, can feel more concrete, more immediate and real to us than the suffering and hopes of people we don’t know and who seem not to be like ourselves. Think too of the differing international responses to acts of terror in Europe and in Africa and in the Middle East during 2015. Pope Francis points to this as a failure to understand that we are one human family. In his World Day of Peace Message he calls it a failure of solidarity, and of fraternity. Francis laments the globalization of indifference and wants to shake us out of indifference to others. He stresses that personal dignity and interpersonal relationships are what make us human beings made in the image and likeness of God. Solidarity is not just a matter of recognizing similarities with those whom we don’t immediately see as being like us. It also asks us to love others as others – to embrace, accept and be enriched by their very otherness. The three persons of the Trinity – in whose likeness we are made – enjoy a relationship of unity, mutuality and reciprocity, not just sameness. Our solidarity can’t be an excuse for reducing others to being just like us. The birth that drew the attention of the Magi is an event that happened in time, but it is not just something that happened in the past. Jesus is born every day. God is actively present in the people, places and events of our world every day. The challenge is to have eyes to see. Can we learn to be more like the Magi and notice the guiding star when it appears in our lives? 2. Seek the Meaning of Events The Magi didn’t simply take in the presence of the new star as information – they set off on a quest to find out more. The second lesson of the Magi is that they looked into the meaning of events. Today so much information is available to us so instantly that it can be overwhelming and paralyzing. Knowing more doesn’t automatically translate into caring more. Pope Francis says in his World Day of Peace Message: “Some people are well-informed; they listen to the radio, read the newspapers or watch television, but they do so mechanically and without engagement. They are vaguely aware of the tragedies afflicting humanity, but they have no sense of involvement or compassion. Theirs is the attitude of those who know, but keep their gaze, their thoughts and their actions focused on themselves. Sadly, it must be said that today’s information explosion does not of itself lead to an increased concern for other people’s problems, which demands openness and a sense of solidarity. Indeed, the information glut can numb people’s sensibilities and to some degree downplay the gravity of the problems.” (n 3) Pope Francis urges us to engage with the information available to us and to ask questions of reality. It is easier to blame people for their own suffering, or to simply accept it as a fact, than to ask why it is so. This is another form of indifference that Francis criticizes. It is linked to what he calls an “indifference to God.” Francis says that we “… think that we are the source and creator of ourselves, our lives and society. We feel self-sufficient, prepared not only to find a substitute for God but to do completely without [God]. As a consequence, we feel that we owe nothing to anyone but ourselves, and we claim only rights.” (n 3) Pope Francis reminds us that this common way of thinking is actually a misunderstanding of what it is to be human. We are not self-made and independent. We are all creatures and we are interdependent – we are all in this together. We are children of the one God, sisters and brothers to one another, related to the whole of God’s creation. We are responsible for each other and for the care of creation. This understanding shapes our interpretation of the meaning of events. The image of Aylan Kurdi’s tiny lifeless body on a beach was not just information, it resonated around the world as a call to action. We understood in that moment that our humanity as well as the very lives of asylum seekers was at stake. Of course there had been many images before of people seeking asylum who had lost their lives in the quest for safety and freedom. In his poem The Journey of the Magi, TS Elliot speaks of returning to the same place, and seeing it for the first time. Epiphany can happen any day. 3. Respond by Taking a New Path The Magi noticed the star, they set out to find out more, and after they saw the Child, they returned home by another path. The third lesson of the Magi is that they responded by choosing another path. Indifference to God, […]