The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative: Contributing to the Catholic understanding of and commitment to nonviolence

The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, a project of Pax Christi International, reaffirms the centrality of active nonviolence to the vision and message of Jesus, to the life of the Catholic Church, and to the long-term vocation of healing and reconciling both people and the planet.

This bold effort was launched at the Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference held in Rome April 11-13, 2016 and co-sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Pax Christi International, and other international bodies (see full list below).

Lay people, theologians, members of religious congregations, priests and bishops from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Oceania gathered to call on the Catholic Church to take a clear stand for active nonviolence and against all forms of violence. In his message to the conference, Pope Francis said, “Your thoughts on revitalizing the tools of nonviolence, and of active nonviolence in particular, will be a needed and positive contribution.”

Continue reading The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative: Contributing to the Catholic understanding of and commitment to nonviolence

Webinar #2: Experiences of nonviolence and Jesus’ way of nonviolence

Photo: Dr. Terry Rynne, Sr. Wamuyu Wachira, and Fr. Jamal Khader at the April 2016 Nonviolence & Just Peace conference. Photo by Gerry Lee, Maryknoll.

Join us for the second in a series of four webinars about the ground-shifting Nonviolence & Just Peace conference, held in Rome this past April 2016.

The webinar will be held Tuesday, October 11, 9-10 AM EDT (Washington, D.C.)


This second webinar will focus on experiences of nonviolence and Jesus’ way of nonviolence — panelists will discuss how recent experiences help illuminate our understanding of Jesus’ way of nonviolence and engaging conflict, and what the latest scholarship and praxis have revealed about Jesus’ approach and practices for nonviolence and engaging conflict. We will also have some time for discussion.

Prof. Ken Butigan, Ph.D.: A senior lecturer in the Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies Program at DePaul University in Chicago, Dr. Butigan directs Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service and Campaign Nonviolence, which seeks a world of justice, peace and the well-being of all through nonviolent action and education. He has published a series of books on peace and nonviolence, including the forthcoming Nonviolent Lives: People and Movements Changing the World Through the Power of Active Nonviolence.

Fr. Jamal Khader: Rector of the Latin Patriarchate Seminary in Jerusalem, Fr. Khader received his PhD in dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He also teaches theology at Bethlehem University where he is chairperson of the Department of Religious Studies and dean of the Faculty of Arts.

Sr. Anne McCarthy, OSB: She holds a MA in Theology from St. John’s University, Collegeville in monastic studies and completed Shalem Institute’s “Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats” program. She has experience in the last 10 years leading retreats for a variety of communities on themes of nonviolence, the journey from fear to love, and monastic spirituality. Long involved in peace and justice ministry nationally and locally, Anne serves on the board of the Monastic Interreligious Dialogue internationally and in the U.S. She lives at Mary the Apostle Catholic Worker in Erie, PA.

Prof. Terrence Rynne: Professor of Peace Studies and founder of the Center for Peacemaking at Marquette University, Dr. Rynne has an MBA from Northwestern University and PhD. in theology from Marquette University. Author of Jesus Christ, Peacemaker: A New Theology of Peace and Gandhi and Jesus: The Saving Power of Nonviolence, Orbis Books.

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The upcoming webinars in the series will focus on the theme of just peace and moving beyond unending war, as well as the appeal to the Catholic Church and its implementation.

We hope you will join us for the webinars. Each will also be recorded for re-use. You can find webinar #1 here.

Tuesday, October 11, 9-10 AM EDT (Washington, D.C.)

Crux: Peace deal puts Colombia at heart of Year of Mercy

The following article, written by Austen Ivereigh and published on Crux on September 24, 2016, provides a glimpse at the efforts of Fr. Francisco de Roux, SJ, and other members of the church to shape the peace negotiations between the government of Colombia and the FARC guerrillas. Fr. de Roux, pictured at right above with Jasmin Nario-Galace (left) and Eli McCarthy (center), was one of the participants at the April 2016 Nonviolence and Just Peace conference. Photo by Gerry Lee, Maryknoll.

“The last and oldest armed conflict in the hemisphere is over,” announced Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, last week, as he handed over to the United Nations the peace agreement reached in Havana at the end of August between Colombia’s government and its largest guerrilla army, the FARC.

On Monday, after a liturgy at midday in Cartagena’s St. Peter Claver church presided over by the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, that agreement will be signed in a ceremony attended by around 2,500. Among them will be 15 heads of state from across Latin America, the secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, King Juan Carlos of Spain and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Santos has asked them all to wear white, the color of peace.

The deal will be signed by delegates of the FARC and the government, with Raúl Castro of Cuba, who hosted the four-year process, looking on.

Yet in many ways the key people at the ceremony – the ones who should really be given the credit for ending a 52-year war that has affected the lives of millions of Colombians – will not be the heads of state, but representatives of the victims of the protracted conflict.

It was their presence in Havana that transformed the dynamic of the talks. And the fact that they were there at all was the result of the Church – including a 70-year-old Jesuit called Father Francisco de Roux.

Even before I arrived in Colombia earlier this month, I knew that ‘Pacho’ de Roux was a key figure in the peace process, but pinning him down was not easy.

By the time we finally met over lunch last Friday, I had already seen the Church’s role first hand. At one workshop at the bishops’ conference headquarters, for example, I watched priests in the southern conflict zones get briefed on walking with the thousands of demobilized guerrillas who later this year will begin arriving in their parishes.

The workshop was given by Father Dario Echeverri of the Church’s National Reconciliation Commission, who described to me how, with de Roux, he had persuaded both sides in the talks to admit victims to the negotiating table.

From August 2014, said Echeverri, the churchmen began taking groups of victims to Havana (there were five visits, each time with a dozen victims) to testify directly to those who had done them harm.

Importantly, they were chosen as victims of the “armed conflict” in general – the armed forces, and the paramilitaries, not just the FARC – which prevented any one party being singled out. The Church’s Reconciliation Commission has compiled the victims’ testimonies in a book, El Corazón de las Víctimas (‘The Heart of the Victims’), which make for sober reading.

“The presence of the victims focussed the attention elsewhere – on the human being,” de Roux explained to me over rice and fish at the Jesuit curia in downtown Bogotá.

“Until then the discussion had been on very real issues: corruption, impunity, the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, and the fact that political parties have become vote-buying machines. But the victims said no: these are serious issues, but the main problem is us: Colombians. We have to solve that first.” …

Read the entire article on the Crux website.

Dismantle “dividing walls”: The struggle for justice and peace in Palestine continues

The following reflection is written by Hind Khoury, secretary general of Kairos Palestine. Hind was one of the participants at the Nonviolence & Just Peace conference held in Rome in April 2016. (Photo by Gerry Lee, Maryknoll)

Dismantle “dividing walls”: The struggle for justice and peace in Palestine continues
Reflections on the occasion of the World Week for Peace, 18-24 Sept. 2016
Hind Khoury, Kairos Palestine
15 September 2016

The Church in prophetic action:

Together with many good people around the world, Kairos Palestine welcomes the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel (WWPPI). This call for advocacy and action in support of an end to the occupation aims to liberate the Palestinians from its oppression and to liberate the Israelis themselves from the consequences of its evil upon them. It helps subside the sense of fear and insecurity, builds mutual confidence and hence to construct a just peace. The WWPPI campaign is beautifully supported with resources to guide prayers and actions.

This campaign from the Church is hope in action that we celebrate with joy. This is the proof that while love guides the work of the Church for peace with justice, the prophetic Church stands firm in rejecting evil; the evil of occupation, the evil of discrimination, and the evil of the ‘dividing walls’ of hostility.

In Ephesians, Paul reminds us that Jesus has “abolished the law ..that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of two, thus making peace and …putting to death that hostility through it” (Ephesians 2:16-17).

In this land, the cradle of the three monotheistic religions, Palestinians lived and practiced religious traditions as Christians, Muslims and Jews. This co-existence and pluralism has been transformed into conflict through the imposition of exclusive rights based to a large extent on interpretations of ‘election’ and ‘promise’. The Kairos Palestine document states that the land is God’s land and that ‘any use of the Bible to legitimize or support political options and positions that are based upon injustice,… transform religion into human ideology and strip the world of God of its holiness, its universality and truth.” (KP2.4)

Yet the patterns of injustice seem to prevail in total impunity. Among these patterns are physical barriers such as the Separation Wall and military checkpoints that fragment Palestinian society, a prolonged blockade of Gaza and a complex system of colonial settlements.

Yes, it’s time for Palestinians and Israelis to share a just peace, it’s time for freedom from occupation, it’s time for equal rights and, it’s time for the healing of wounded souls. …

Read the entire statement on the Kairos Palestine website.

World Day of Peace 2017: “Nonviolence: A style of politics for peace”

August 25, 2016 — Vatican Radio announced today:

«Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace». This is the title of the message for the 50th World Day of Peace, the fourth of Pope Francis.

Violence and peace are at the origin of two opposite ways to building society.

The proliferation of hotbeds of violence produces most serious negative social consequences. The Holy Father sums up this situation in the expression: “A Third World War in Pieces”. Peace, by contrast, promotes social positive consequences and it allows the achievement of real progress. Therefore, we should act within what is possible, and negotiate ways of peace even where they seem tortuous and impractical. Thus, nonviolence can acquire a more comprehensive and new meaning. It will not only consist of desire, of moral rejection of violence, barriers, destructive impulses, but also of a realistic political method that gives rise to hope.

Such a political method is based on the primacy of law. If the rights and the equal dignity of every person are safeguarded without any discrimination and distinction, then nonviolence, understood as a political method, can constitute a realistic way to overcome arm conflicts. In this perspective, it becomes important to increasingly recognize not the right of force but the force of right.

With this message, Pope Francis wants to show a further step, a path of hope, appropriate to today’s historical circumstances. In this way, the settlement of disputes may be reached through negotiation without then degenerating into armed conflict. Within such a perspective the culture and identity of peoples are respected and the opinion that some are morally superior to others is overcome.

At the same time, however, it does not mean that one nation can remain indifferent to the tragedies of another. Rather it means a recognition of the primacy of diplomacy over the noise of arms.

Arms trade is so widespread that it is generally underestimated. Illegal arms trafficking supports not a few world’s conflicts. Nonviolence as a political style can and must do much to stem this scourge.


The World Peace Day initiated by Paul VI is celebrated each year on the first day of January. The Holy Father’s message is sent to all foreign ministries of the world and it indicates the diplomatic concerns of the Holy See during the coming year.

Press release from Vatican Radio

Photo: © Mazur/

Webinar #1: Introduction to Nonviolence & Just Peace conference

Photo from conference’s closing liturgy by Gerry Lee, Maryknoll

On September 13, 2016 a introductory webinar was held about the ground-shifting Nonviolence and Just Peace conference, which was held in Rome this past April 2016.

Watch and listen to the webinar here.

This introductory webinar was the first of a four-part series to share and advance the fruit of the conference, which was co-sponsored by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

In this first webinar, we heard from conference organizers and participants about the background, purpose, process, and basic outcomes of the conference.

The forthcoming webinars in the series will include conference topics such as experiences of nonviolence and Jesus’ way of nonviolence, just peace and moving beyond unending war, and the appeal to the Catholic Church and its implementation.

We hope you will join us for each webinar in the series. Each will be recorded for re-use.

Watch and listen to the first webinar here.

Ann Scholz is a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame and Associate Director for Social Mission at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). Prior to her ministry at LCWR, Sister Ann served as the representative of her religious congregation at the United Nations in New York. A former secondary social studies teacher, she earned her MA and PhD in International Education from the American University in Washington, D.C. and served as Associate Professor of Education and Director of Study Abroad at Notre Dame of Maryland University.

Pat Gaffney has been General Secretary of the British Section of Pax Christi since 1990. Her work involves lobbying and campaigning within the church and political networks on peace and security-related issues, and support and facilitation for church-related groups on Christian peacemaking. Pat is also a practitioner of active nonviolence. Since 1986 she has been involved in nonviolent protests against the arms trade and the government’s nuclear weapons program. These actions have led to arrests on 11 occasions and imprisonment three times.

Marie Dennis is co-president of Pax Christi International and a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. She served for many years as director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, holds a master’s degree in moral theology from Washington Theological Union and honorary doctorates from Trinity Washington University and Alvernia University. She is author or co-author of seven books; has lectured at many universities and conferences over the past 35 years; and has prepared and participated in panels and workshops at the United Nations and the U.S. Congress.

José Henríquez was the past Secretary General of Pax Christi International. He has a bachelor’s degree in theology and a master’s degree in international development. José also worked on many development projects with communities affected by violence in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua for over 15 years.

Gerry Lee is director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, a collaborative ministry of the Maryknoll Sisters, Maryknoll Lay Missioners and Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, which advocates for justice, peace and the integrity of creation. Maryknoll missioners accompany poor and marginalized communities in the global South who are most impacted by violent conflicts, climate change and economic injustice. Gerry and his family lived and worked for 10 years in an urban barrio of Venezuela as Maryknoll Lay Missioners, focusing on human rights advocacy and small Christian communities. Gerry also has served in the leadership of the Maryknoll Lay Missioners.

Register here. Participants can use a phone or computer to participate.

Japanese bishops endorse Appeal

August 2, 2016 – The Nonviolence and Just Peace initiative is deeply grateful to the Catholic bishops of Japan for their support of this effort and their endorsement of the Appeal to the Catholic Church to re-commit to the centrality of Gospel nonviolence.

Below is a letter sent to Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; included is a link to the letter that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan sent as endorsement of the Appeal.

His Eminence
Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

Your Eminence,

We are pleased to inform Your Eminence that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan agree with the final document: “An Appeal to the Catholic Church―To Re-Commit to the Centrality of Gospel Nonviolence” announced during the Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International from April 11 to 13, 2016 in Rome.

In response to Pax Christi International’s request, we hereby send you the attached consent letter sent on July 25, 2016 to the Office of the Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference.

Most grateful to Your Eminence for all that you have done and are doing for the universal Church and also in favor of our local church in Japan, and with prayers for your continued good health, I remain

Devotedly yours in Our Lord,

+Bernard Taiji Katsuya
Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace


Photo of peace cranes from public domain