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by Joseph Nangle, OFM
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace

British writer and journalist, Austen Ivereigh, who collaborated with Pope Francis last year on the Holy Father’s book, Let Us Dream, wrote an insightful postscript to their work. Calling Francis “the world’s spiritual director”, Ivereigh describes the Pope’s state of mind as he agreed to the project and as they worked through its content. The journalist cited Francis’s vision reflected in every page as having been forged in his years of walking with humanity – in Buenos Aires and now in the world.

The “dreaming” came out of the Holy Father’s ardent hope for a new post-pandemic world and the urgency of opening humanity to this moment of grace – a Kairos moment. Ivereigh said that the Pope in no way was trying to lay out diagnoses and prescriptions but was revealing the ways in which historic changes happen and how humanity can either embrace or resist them. This of course has been Francis’s intuition since the beginning of the pandemic.

Last June on the 5th anniversary of his encyclical, Laudato Si’ (“On Care For Our Common Home”), the Pope announced a seven-year plan whose goals included responses to: The Cry of the Earth; The Cry of the Poor; Ecological Economics; Simple Lifestyles; Ecological Education; Ecological Spirituality; and Emphasis on Community Involvement and Participatory Action.

During the course of this anniversary year the Vatican Dicastery (Office) for Promoting Integral Human Development has elaborated and concretized these goals, applying them to Families, Dioceses, Schools, Universities. Hospital/Healthcare Centers; Business/Agricultural Farms, and Religious Orders. Just enumerating this list gives one a sense of the scope of this effort toward “Sustainability in the Spirit of Laudato Si’”. Obviously Pope Francis’s vision and direction are written all over it.

Pax Christi International through its Catholic Nonviolent Initiative is working with the Dicastery on the overview and details of the seven-year plan. As someone vitally interested but generally outside the discussions around this contribution of the CNI, I find it simple and profound:

VIOLENCE CUTS ACROSS AND INDEED IS RESPONSIBLE
FOR EVERY VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
AND FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF OUR COMMON HOME.

It follows then that nonviolence is a major factor in judging and acting on every effort toward what Pope Francis calls “Social Ecology”.

The Catholic Nonviolent Initiative has laid out in great detail how this intuition should inform every aspect of the Pope’s Laudato Si’ action plan. The CNI document in in fact a companion to that plan. Viewing nonviolence in this comprehensive way is a huge reach. It is also, according to the Pax Christi members who themselves have come to this conviction, a matter of ongoing personal and communal conversion, to be reflected on and prayed about — it is not automatic.

For that reason, in the next several weeks we will offer reflections on the content of this “CNI companion piece” to Pope Francis’s seven-year plan. Each reflection will look at the way nonviolence informs every aspect of that plan.

This seems to be a worthy use of this space. Another name for Pax Christi is “Nonviolence” and over its 75-year history it has deepened understanding regarding the centrality of that Gospel demand. Now Pax Christi/CNI offers further deepening of that understanding. It is boldly and prophetically calling for the People of God including the institutional Catholic Church to embrace it. The Catholic Nonviolent Initiative is also very timely, not only because of Pope Francis’s all-encompassing vision proposed in the Laudato Si’ Action Plan, but also, as the Holy Father has constantly insisted, because we are at a Kairos moment in human history – the pandemic and post-pandemic world which challenges the entire human family. Finally, the Laudato Si’ Action Plan and Pax Christi’s cooperation in this Easter Season echoes the final words of the nonviolent Jesus to his disciples: “… you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

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Joe Nangle OFM is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. As a member of the Assisi Community in Washington, D.C., he is dedicated to simple living and social change. Joe also serves as the Pastoral Associate for the Latino community at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, Virginia.

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