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Wednesday, 05 January 2011 17:38

Raising thoughts about Peace and Non-violence?

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Peace FlagBelieving that Jesus taught us to love our enemies, I am aghast that most Catholic parishes appear apathetic about the U.S.'s on-going violent, unloving approach to international relations and the resultant lack of peace. We know that most people in our parish won't participate in a rational discussion about war or anything they consider “political.” So we are trying a variety of approaches to produce a better awareness of the need for peace and non-violence, including organizing an annual Peace Mass in addition to the Search For Peace Art Festival which we have previously written about.

Although Pope Benedict XVI has followed the tradition begun by Pope Paul VI of delivering an annual peace message on January 1, most Catholics never hear about it. We organize a peace theme for the Sunday Masses on the first weekend of January, when the Epiphany is celebrated, so that our parish will hear about the Pope's Peace message and perhaps think about peace. Flags saying “Pray For Peace, Act For Peace” are mounted outside the church. The congregation is asked to “recycle thei peace-related Christmas cards in a basket in the vestibule. These cards are used for future Children's art projects. Inside the church children's art depicts “The Path to Peace” and the people are asked to write Prayers for Peace which are submitted at the Offertory when Prayers of the Faithful also address peace and non-violence. The choir sings familiar hymns related to peace, such as “Peace Is Flowing Like A River.” Sometimes there is even a mention about peace and non-violence in the homily. 

For our Sunday bulletin we provide excerpts from the Pope's message for the day, including the following: “The year 2011 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Peace convened in Assisi in 1986 by Pope John Paul II. On that occasion the leaders of the great world religions testified to the fact that religion is a factor of union and peace, and not of division and conflict… The leaders of the great world religions and the leaders of nations should therefore renew their commitment to promoting and protecting religious freedom, and in particular to defending religious minorities; these do not represent a threat to the identity of the majority but rather an opportunity for dialogue and mutual cultural enrichment…

Then let us renew the pledge we give to be forgiving and to pardon when we invoke God’s forgiveness in the Our Father. We ourselves lay down the condition and the extent of the mercy we ask for when we say: "And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us’ (Mt 6:12)”. Violence is not overcome by violence…

In the words of Pope Paul VI, to whose wisdom and farsightedness we owe the institution of the World Day of Peace: “It is necessary before all else to provide peace with other weapons—different from those destined to kill and exterminate mankind. What are needed above all are moral weapons, those which give strength and prestige to international law—the weapon, in the first place, of the observance of pacts.” Religious freedom is an authentic weapon of peace, with an historical and prophetic mission… It gives hope for a future of justice and peace, even in the face of grave injustice and material and moral poverty. May all men and women, and societies at every level and in every part of the earth, soon be able to experience religious freedom, the path to peace!"

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