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

Oct. 25: Webinar #3, Nonviolence and Just Peace: Moving beyond war

Merwyn de Mello and Fr. Pat Cunningham on the final evening of the Nonviolence & Just Peace conference; photo by Gerry Lee, Maryknoll

Join us for the third in our series of four webinars about the ground-shifting Nonviolence & Just Peace conference, which was held in Rome in April 2016. The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace was a co-sponsor of the conference.

Tuesday, October 25, 10-11 AM, Eastern time (U.S.)

Register here — space is limited

Building off the previous webinar on experiences of nonviolence in violent conflict zones and Jesus’ way of nonviolence, this webinar addresses “Nonviolence and Just Peace: Moving beyond war.”

  • What are the developments in theological reflection and praxis of just peace and how does this build on the scriptures and trajectory of Catholic social thought?
  • How would a turn to just peace impact our moral analysis of conflicts, practices, and engagement with the broader society, including policy makers?
  • What could be the role of the Church in moving beyond the notion of justified war?

The final webinar in the series will include the Appeal to the Catholic Church and its implementation. Its date and registration information will be posted soon. Previous webinars can be found here.

Register here — space is limited


Cory Lockhart is the program writer for JustFaith Ministries and reservist with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). She has served three times on the CPT Palestine team. She has a MA in Teaching from Bellarmine University and an MA in Spirituality through a joint program between Bellarmine and the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. In addition to her work at JustFaith Ministries, Cory gives talks on compassion, nonviolence, and Israel/Palestine, and leads workshops on living a life of compassion.


Merwyn De Mello serves with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) as the Peacebuilding Advisor. He has over 20 years of experience facilitating peacebuilding strategies at local, regional and national levels in India, Japan, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, the United States and presently Afghanistan. He has a Master’s degree in Conflict Transformation from Eastern Mennonite University (Harrisonburg VA) which includes the Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) Program. Merwyn developed curriculum and taught peacebuilding, transitional justice, and trauma awareness at universities in Zimbabwe.

Lisa Sowle Cahill is the J. Donald Monan, S.J., Professor of Theology and Ethics at Boston College in the United States. She received her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago Divinity School. She is past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and the Society of Christian Ethics, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her works include Global Justice, Christology and Christian Ethics (Cambridge, 2013), Theological Bioethics: Justice, Participation, and Change (Georgetown, 2005), Sex, Gender, and Christian Ethics (Cambridge, 1996) and Discipleship, Pacifism, and Just War Theory (Fortress, 1994, now being revised). She serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Religious Ethics and the international journal Concilium.

Eli S. McCarthy is the Director of Justice and Peace for the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, which is the leadership conference of all the U.S. Catholic men’s religious orders. He also teaches at Georgetown University in Justice and Peace Studies. Eli has published a book called Becoming Nonviolent Peacemakers: A Virtue Ethic for Catholic Social Teaching and U.S. Policy, (2012) along with numerous journal articles. He has been formed by multiple trips to Haiti working with people who are living in poverty, working with people who are homeless in Boston and Washington, D.C., and monitoring the Palestinian elections in 2006 with the Nonviolent Peaceforce. Eli also participates in the DC Peace Team offering nonviolent conflict intervention and restorative justice training, peace education, and unarmed civilian protection.

Colombia’s rejected peace: What we have won by losing

By Francisco de Roux, SJ
October 3, 2016

Colombian Fr. Francisco de Roux, SJ, was one of the participants in the Nonviolence & Just Peace conference held in April 2016. Following are his reflections following the referendum in his country on the peace treaty that had been negotiated between the government and the FARC, one of the guerrilla movements with whom the government had waged a decades-long war. To most people’s surprise, the peace treaty was rejected, although by a slim margin.

This reflection is also available in PDF format.

We had issued an invitation to a vote of conscience, with full respect to those who think differently, to participate in the referendum, making it clear that we would accept and build from the result, whatever it was.

In good conscience, we explained the reasons that led us to fight for a Yes vote, convinced that it was best for the country and that our reasons would convince the majority, and we lost.

We did not fight for the political future of President [Juan Manuel] Santos, nor against the political future of former President [Alvaro] Uribe, nor were we fighting for the political future of the FARC. We cared only to be able to live as human beings. This was the reason for our struggle.

We struggled to overcome the spiritual crisis in the country that plunged us into our own destruction as human beings. We dreamt of taking a first step by approving the negotiations with the FARC, but we did not achieve this aim. Probably because we ourselves are part of the crisis, as the Colombians we are. Continue reading Colombia’s rejected peace: What we have won by losing

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.

The second in a series of four webinars about the ground-shifting April 2016 Nonviolence & Just Peace conference was held on Tuesday, October 11, 2016.

Listen to the audio and watch slides from the second webinar here.

This second webinar focused on experiences of nonviolence and Jesus’ way of nonviolence — panelists discussed 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.

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.

The next 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.

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/