Strategizes for World Day of Peace follow-up
ROME, Italy – On 19-20 December, the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative gathered in Rome to reflect on and discuss the Holy Father’s 2017 World Day of Peace message, Nonviolence: A style of politics for peace, and to strategize about next steps for this critical movement. The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative grew out of the landmark April 2016 Nonviolence and Just Peace conference, co-sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International, and is focused on affirming the vision and practice of active nonviolence at the heart of the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative is moved and inspired by this 50th World Day of Peace message, particularly the conclusion by Pope Francis: “May we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. ‘Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace.’”
“We are committed to following up on this statement on a deep level,” said Marie Dennis, co-president, along with Bishop Kevin Dowling (Rustenburg, South Africa), of Pax Christi International. “It has raised many topics that deserve much reflection, and we are ready to help spread this message of nonviolence in whatever way we can.”
The group met with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States within the Holy See’s Secretariat of State, and with Archbishop Silvano Tomasi of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. In both meetings, the group shared their deep appreciation for the World Day of Peace message and spoke of their plans to continue the implementation of both that message and the Appeal to the Catholic Church to recommit to the centrality of Gospel nonviolence, the final statement of the April 2016 Nonviolence and Just Peace conference.
“On-going tragedies such as Aleppo and the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo make our time together all the more significant. As the Holy Father notes, ‘violence is not the cure for our broken world,’” said Bishop Dowling.
Attending the meetings in Rome along with Ms. Dennis and Bishop Dowling were Bishop Marc Stenger (Troyes, France), bishop president of Pax Christi France; Bishop Luigi Bettazzi, bishop emeritus of Ivrea, Italy and one of the remaining Council Fathers of Vatican II; Greet Vanaerschot, secretary general of Pax Christi International; Ken Butigan (Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service and DePaul University); Pat Gaffney (Pax Christi British section); Fr. Renato Sacco (Pax Christi Italy); Gerry Lee (Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns); Eli McCarthy (Justice and Peace office, Conference of Major Superiors of Men); Ann Scholz, SSND (Office for Social Mission, Leadership Conference of Women Religious); Sheila Kinsey, FCJM and Fr. Felix Mushobozi (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission, Union of Superiors General/International Union of Superiors General); along with noted writer and activist Fr. John Dear (Campaign Nonviolence); former Pax Christi International secretary general Jose Henriquez; Sr. Julia Arciniegas (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Promoters, Union of Superiors General/International Union of Superiors General); and Judy Coode, coordinator of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative.