I write this blog today with a heavy heart knowing that there is so many places in the world that still suffer the ravages of war, but also hopeful there are great efforts for making peace in this world such as the messages and actions of Pope Francis. Pope Francis condemned those who supply weapons and help prolong wars and request we pray for their conversion. I pray that his efforts help bring peace to the many peoples and religions of the Holy Land.
Pope Francis in the Holy Land
This Memorial Day Weekend began with the historic pilgrimage that Pope Francis is making to the Holy Land. Just before leaving on his trip the Vatican website began to offer an Arabic language version for the first time in history, showing the efforts Pope Francis is making with interreligious dialog. When Pope Francis arrived in Jordan, he thanked for Jordan for their efforts for peace and helping the many refugees who have fled Syria in their war. Here is a condensed version of his speech in the arrival in the Holy Land:
I thank God for granting me this opportunity to visit the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in the footsteps of my predecessors Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. …
Jordan has offered a generous welcome to great numbers of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees, as well as to other refugees from troubled areas, particularly neighboring Syria, ravaged by a conflict which has lasted all too long. Such generosity merits the appreciation and support of the international community. The Catholic Church, to the extent of its abilities, has sought to provide assistance to refugees and those in need, especially through Caritas Jordan…
I take this opportunity to reiterate my profound respect and esteem for the Muslim community and my appreciation for the leadership of His Majesty the King in promoting a better understanding of the virtues taught by Islam and a climate of serene coexistence between the faithful of the different religions. I am grateful that Jordan has supported a number of important initiatives aimed at advancing interreligious dialogue and understanding between Jews, Christians and Muslims. I think in particular of the Amman Message and the support given within the United Nations Organization to the annual celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week.
I would also like to offer an affectionate greeting to the Christian communities present in this country since apostolic times, contributing to the common good of the society of which they are fully a part. Although Christians today are numerically a minority, theirs is a significant and valued presence in the fields of education and health care, thanks to their schools and hospitals. They are able to profess their faith peaceably, in a climate of respect for religious freedom. Religious freedom is in fact a fundamental human right and I cannot fail to express my hope that it will be upheld throughout the Middle East and the entire world. The right to religious freedom “includes on the individual and collective levels the freedom to follow one’s conscience in religious matters and, at the same time, freedom of worship… [it also includes] the freedom to choose the religion which one judges to be true and to manifest one’s beliefs in public” (Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 26). Christians consider themselves, and indeed are, full citizens, and as such they seek, together with their Muslim fellow citizens, to make their own particular contribution to the society in which they live.
Finally, I cordially invoke peace and prosperity upon the Kingdom of Jordan and its people. I pray that my visit will help to advance and strengthen good and cordial relations between Christians and Muslims.
I thank you for your courteous welcome. May the Almighty and Merciful God grant happiness and long life to Your Majesties, and may he bless Jordan abundantly. Salaam!
This visit to the Holy Land also marks 50 years since Pope Paul VI has made the same visit and met with Patriarch Anthenagoras to end 900 years of division between the Eastern and Western Catholic Churches. Pope Francis will be meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew to continue the friendship and work toward Christian unity in the modern era.
Memorial Day Weekend
This is a special weekend for many Americans in honoring those who serve our country in the military, and especially for those who gave their lives in service to the United States of America. Archbishop Timothy Broglio serves the largest single diocese — the Archdiocese of the Military. He offers this inspiring message in the following video from Catholic News Service in what Memorial Day means to Catholics:
Suicide in the US Military
One of the very sad issues facing many men in the military is the increasing problem of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Depression that has caused many to take their own lives through suicide. The number of veterans committing suicide now is a 22 per day or 660 per month. This is twice the rate in the general population, and an increase from just two years ago. The military and veterans are trying to offer better education and supports.
Here in Charlottesville the Center for Peace and Justice collaborated with Vets for Peace to help raise awareness about the large suicide rate and to help with prevention.
My friend Evan is a vet, and in the following picture, got a local artist to display 660 dog tags on a tree on our Downtown Mall Plaza to represent visually the impact of how many people commit suicide every month in America.
Vets were also passing out the ACE card with instructions to family and friends of vets in how they can help prevent suicides.
How can we change the world towards making peace?
PRAYER, ACTION, & ADVOCACY:
Making peace is a hard task, and actually even harder than making war, BUT it can be done. First, I think that the power of prayer can help, and one of the best prayers is the Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life. Amen
Second, we can take individual action to help working towards peace and healing. We should be engaged in government to advocate for peace – maybe a letter to a congressman, or attending a rally, standing up to talk publically to show action for peace.
Third, we need to have better advocacy for peace. There are too many lobby groups in Washington for making war, and the military companies who make weapons have too powerful a lobby at this time. We need to personally & financially support groups locally and in Washington, that make efforts for peace to match the power of these opposing lobby groups–to have effect of legislators and change attitudes. You can support groups like Pax Christi, USA, Catholic Relief Services, Caritas, and World Beyond War.
Custos of the Holy Land (Franciscans)
Pope Francis’ Visit to the Holy Land (Catholic News Agency)
David Swanson (Peace Activist and Blogger)