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April 17, 2013

"Pacem in Terris": Encyclical on peace turns 50 -
Church leaders address gun control measures -
How to be a church of the poor -
Reaction to bombing in Boston

In this edition:
1. Bombing at Boston Marathon.
2. "Pacem in Terris" turns 50.
3. Building peace: Respecting all.
4. Current quotes to ponder:
a) Gun control as public safety issue.
b) Gun violence and culture of life.
c) What is orthodoxy?
5. Reflections on care for the environment.
6. Church governance: Eight cardinal advisors.
7. How to be a church of the poor.

1. Bombing at the Boston Marathon

The 2013 Boston Marathon ended tragically April 15, a reminder "that evil exists and that life is fragile," Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement after bomb explosions near the marathon's finish line resulted in three deaths and many injuries.

A "growing culture of violence in our world and even in our country" calls for "wise security measures by government officials," Cardinal Dolan said. It calls, too, for "an examination by all of us to see what we can personally do to enhance peace and respect for one another in our world."

The cardinal urged prayers for those killed, as well as for the healing of the injured and the "restoration of peace for all of us unsettled by the bombings at a world renowned sporting event."

Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley expressed the archdiocese's great sorrow over "the senseless acts of violence perpetrated" at the marathon and the "trauma" so many experienced. He thanked the many first responders and others who bravely and heroically provided needed assistance "within moments of these tragic events."

In mentioning the "darkness of this tragedy," Cardinal O'Malley also spoke of Christ's light, which "was evident" in those "who immediately turned to help those in need." He said the archdiocese will stand in solidarity with its ecumenical and interfaith colleagues to give witness to "the greater power of good in our society and to work together for healing."

Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, Texas, called the Boston bombing a "heinous and cowardly act," one that "impacted all of us and has, hopefully, called us to come together as a prayerful nation."

In an entry to his blog April 16 on the website of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Fla., Bishop Robert Lynch expressed concern in light of the Boston bombing about an expansion of violence and a devaluing of life within society.

Bishop Lynch explained that he is speaking about violence during celebrations of the sacrament of confirmation this year. "While I know that much violence can be rooted in mental illness, I also believe that we currently live in a culture of violence," he wrote.

He put it this way: "The sacredness and value of human life is everywhere under attack. It starts with the taking of life of the unborn and sometimes ends with decisions about the end of life. It is to be found in video games where killing objects is thrilling, in movies which elevate graphic violence to an alleged 'art form,' to capital punishment, to the use of drones to take out 'enemies' but at times delivering collateral damage to innocents."

This "can add up to thinking that human life is expendable and humans can make these decisions, not God. That's the dark side of our current culture and society," the bishop said. But he also sees "occasional signs of hope," including "the courage of those who cast themselves potentially in harm's way to assist" the wounded in Boston.

That, the bishop said, "is who we are as a nation and as a people. That is the way of Christ."

But, Bishop Lynch advised, "if you need proof that there is indeed a Satan in our world, just watch the Boston footage." He wrote:

"What happened there and in Newtown, [Conn.] and in Aurora, Colo., is pure unadulterated evil. We have only ourselves to blame if we allow this insensitivity to continue to lead us and the next generation behind us to continue this slide toward passive acceptance of the continued devaluation of human life."

2. "Pacem in Terris" at Age 50

The 50th anniversary of Blessed Pope John XXIII's encyclical "Pacem in Terris" ("Peace on Earth") arrived April 11. Speakers during an April 9-10 conference in Washington at The Catholic University of America recalled the encyclical's insights and assessed its legacy.

"Pacem in Terris" was issued in 1963 "when the Cold War was at its height," Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, noted in an address to the Washington conference. At that time, he said, "nuclear disaster seemed imminent."

Many problems of that period "persist today," Cardinal Turkson said. But he considered the present moment different "in important ways, especially because of rapid globalization. It causes myriad new stresses."

In the present era of globalization, "proper arrangements between nations and careful observance of others' rights are essential," but "are not enough," the cardinal commented. He said that today "we must also build bridges of true dialogue and true fraternity if we are to build peace."

Pope John's encyclical clearly conveyed the sense of apprehension that prevailed in his time over the possibility of a nuclear weapons disaster. He wrote: "People are living in the grip of constant fear. They are afraid that at any moment the impending storm may break upon them with horrific violence. And they have good reasons for their fear, for there is certainly no lack of such weapons."

He said, "While it is difficult to believe that anyone would dare to assume responsibility for initiating the appalling slaughter and destruction that war would bring in its wake, there is no denying that the conflagration could be started by some chance and unforeseen circumstance" (No. 111).

It commonly was believed at the time of his encyclical "that under modern conditions peace cannot be assured except on the basis of an equal balance of armaments," Pope John said. Thus, he wrote:

"If one country increases its military strength, others are immediately roused by a competitive spirit to augment their own supply of armaments. And if one country is equipped with atomic weapons, others consider themselves justified in producing such weapons themselves, equal in destructive force" (No. 110).

Cardinal Turkson expressed concern in his Washington speech that similar conditions and fears still exist. "Weapons have always been the most important element in the spread of power and domination -- an imposition always motivated by one thing only, the quest for goods and wealth," the cardinal commented.

Father J. Bryan Hehir, a theologian who is on the faculty of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, said during the Washington conference that Pope John saw a world in which two superpowers easily might engage in nuclear war, and this prompted him to write "Pacem in Terris."

But today, rather than two nations with nuclear weapons, there are nine, Father Hehir noted. Nuclear proliferation is the contemporary worry, as more countries and groups seek such weapons.

Father Hehir thinks Catholics should continue calling for arms reductions and limits on proliferation. Ultimately, he said, the goal should be "going to zero."

. . . 3. Building Peace: Respecting Every Person

Pope John XXIII's "radical insight" in "Pacem in Terris" was "to write about peace rather than about absence of war, and to address" his encyclical "to all people and only secondarily to all nations," Cardinal Turkson told participants in the April 9-10 conference at The Catholic University of America, held in observance of the document's 50th anniversary.

At the present time, he said, the "pressing question" asks how "everyone of good will may make peace-building their own personal practice, rather than leaving it to a few in high office."

Pope Francis already is offering a sense of how he wants the church to serve as a channel for peace in the world, Cardinal Turkson pointed out. He noted that in Pope Francis' speech March 22 to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican, he "asserted that 'what matters to the Holy See [is] the good of every person upon this earth!'"

A basic problem in peace-building, however, is that "the humanly established order does not inherently promote peace, because nations compete," Cardinal Turkson said. Ultimately, he continued, "a nation will pursue its interests above those of any set of nations, let alone of all nations."

Furthermore, the cardinal judged that "envy and greed and other base human tendencies have not disappeared, they are still present and they continue to motivate even what we call diplomacy and national interests."

History showed Pope John XXIII, and it "has shown all of us the inadequacy of the humanly established order," said Cardinal Turkson. He called attention to the insistence in "Pacem in Terris" that peace neither can be established nor guaranteed except by "diligent observance of the divinely established order."

"Pacem in Terris" accents "the rights of all people," said the cardinal. Reflecting on the encyclical, he proposed that it is within the parameters of these rights and their inviolability that "our right to peace and our duty to work for peace" should be approached.

Human beings are the encyclical's "starting point," Cardinal Turkson observed. Human beings are its "core topic" - people, that is, who are "created by God, endowed with dignity and bearers of rights and duties."

In this light, the encyclical can be viewed as "the starting point for understanding the relationships among all people, with the purpose of assuring those rights for all," he added.

"One person's natural right gives rise to a corresponding duty in others of respecting that right," Cardinal Turkson explained. He insisted that we are not simply "called to claim our human rights," but also "to respect the human rights of others."

To respect and honor the dignity and human rights of others is to move in the direction of peace, he proposed.

And, as Pope Francis suggested in the first days of his pontificate, it is vital to build bridges between people, Cardinal Turkson said. The new pope called for dialogue among the world's peoples in order to connect them "in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced!"

4. Current Quotes to Ponder

Gun Control as Public Safety Issue: "The will of the overwhelming majority of citizens for universal background checks on the sale of weapons is threatened by a small minority, who have worked to refashion a public safety issue into an individual rights issue. American citizens deserve an up-or-down vote in both houses [of the U.S. Congress] on the background checks issue to force out those congressmen and senators who place personal political survival above public safety and the will of the people. Tragically, the limiting of the sale of assault weapons and large capacity magazines has already fallen to political expediency. Are we now to see the democratic process completely sold out in the defeat or emasculation of the effort to impose universal background checks? Of course what has been completely lost is the fact that the limiting of weapons is a moral issue, but during the past two and a half centuries morality in our laws has fallen victim to individual rights through legislation and adjudication. Will public safety now suffer the same fate?" (From an April 10 blog entry by Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, Texas, reflecting on the gun-control issue in Congress at that moment)

Reduce Gun Violence, Build a Culture of Life: "I urge you to support legislation that builds a culture of life by promoting policies that reduce gun violence and save people's lives in homes and communities throughout our nation. . . . Sadly, gun violence is too common a reality. Tragic events, such as the recent event in Newton, Conn., and the violence that occurs daily in our homes and communities should lead us to answer the call of Pope Francis to 'change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace.' Therefore, we urge Congress to act and support policies that promote a culture of life by helping reduce gun violence and save lives." (From an April 8 letter to members of the U.S. Senate by Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. His letter addressed provisions of the proposed Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act.) What Is Orthodoxy? "'Orthodoxy' in the context of faith literally means the correct or right way of praising God. Yet, it is often misused. Sometimes people or movements in a given church self-define their particular narrow view of things as the only orthodox -- that is, faithful -- position which can be held, thereby dismissing those who disagree with them. Nearly a dozen years ago, Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote what some consider to be his finest apostolic letter, 'At the Beginning of the New Millennium.' It is noteworthy that the late Holy Father referred to orthodoxy only once on that occasion. He did so in the context of urging each Christian and each Christian community to demonstrate 'a commitment to practical and concrete love for every human being.' It is by Christ's words, calling us to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked and visit the sick and imprisoned, 'no less than by the orthodoxy of her doctrine, that the church measures her fidelity as the bride of Christ.' The message is clear. The test of our orthodoxy, or fidelity as Christians, must include our practice of the corporal works of mercy. . . . What Blessed John Paul II is suggesting to us about the orthodoxy of love is much like what Blessed Cardinal Newman said nearly 150 years ago when speaking about Lent. Amid all the practices and acts of penance during this season, he notes that in the end we are left with one single question: How are we to learn not merely to obey, but to love? . . . Both the Holy Father and Cardinal Newman seem to be saying that orthodoxy surely requires obedience, but even more so and first of all it requires love - for without it we are nothing at all." (Excerpt from a March 21 column by Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane in the diocese's Inland Register newspaper)

5. Caring for the Environment

No nation can alone solve the environmental problems encountered in today's world, the Canadian Catholic bishops' Commission on Justice and Peace said in an early April document reviewing themes of church teaching on the environment.

"The interdependence of ecosystems" calls out for policies that reach "beyond the borders of states," the commission explained. It said, moreover, that "the costs of implementing policies should lie primarily with the states which bear responsibility" for an environmental problem "and not with those states which are its victims and which represent the poorest populations."

The commission hoped its document would promote discussion and reflection, as well as decision making related to care for the environment, which it called a responsibility shared by all.

Environmental destruction is the result of "a neglect of ecology caused by short-term economic interests and the selfish quest for pleasure or profit," the commission stated. It said the unique place human beings hold in nature means that care for the environment never is solely "an economic or technological issue," but above all is a moral issue.

Thus, attempts to resolve environmental problems in ways "based only on utilitarian factors" will not lead to "authentic solutions," according to the commission. For, "both economic activity and the use of technology are human actions and therefore always contain a moral component."

The commission accented the importance of human ecology. "Maintaining a proper ecology of our natural environment is only possible when we foster a truly 'human ecology,' that is, when we promote human relationships and interactions that respect the dignity of the human person, the common good and nature," the commission said. (The commission's document appears in Origins, CNS Documentary Service, the edition dated April 18, 2013.)

6. Governance: Eight Cardinals to Advise Pope

A committee of eight cardinals was named by Pope Francis April 13 to advise him on matters related to "the government of the universal church" and "to study a plan" for reorganizing or renewing the Roman Curia, which would mean "revising the apostolic constitution on the Roman Curia, 'Pastor Bonus.'"

The 1988 document titled "Pastor Bonus" contains the most recent set of major changes in the Roman Curia.

In announcing this development, the Vatican confirmed that the committee's formation takes up "a suggestion that emerged" in the meetings of the world's cardinals just prior to the conclave at which Pope Francis was elected. Many reports later indicated that calls for reform of the Curia were voiced in those meetings among the cardinals.

Only one member of the new committee presently is a Vatican official, Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State. The others on the committee are heads of archdioceses around the world.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, a Capuchin Franciscan, is a member of the committee. He is known for the simplicity of his lifestyle and wears the habit of his religious order often. Among other things, he is recognized for his handling of the devastation of the sexual abuse scandal that erupted in the Boston Archdiocese prior to his arrival there.

Others from the Americas named to the committee include Cardinal Oscar Andres Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. He will serve as the committee's coordinator. The cardinal is associated with issues of social justice and advocacy for the poor.

And Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of the Chilean Archdiocese of Santiago de Chile, also was named to the committee. He is a past president of the Latin American bishops' council, or CELAM.

The committee's other members are Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia; and Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany.

Cardinal Gracias is president of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences. Cardinal Pasinya, with Vatican approval, took an active role in the 1990s in mediating the political crisis in his nation. Cardinal Marx is known for his strong advocacy of economic ethics and justice, and promotion of the church's social teaching.

Finally, Sydney's Cardinal Pell already has served on a Vatican-appointed group of cardinals, the international Council of Cardinals for the Study of the Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See. He suggested to an Australian newspaper that "professional men and women with expertise in areas such as finance, for example, could have a lot to offer in overseeing some Vatican departments, perhaps under the leadership of a cardinal."

7. How to Be a Church of the Poor

In quite specific terms, New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond offered an overview in his March 26 homily for Holy Thursday's Chrism Mass of just what he believes it means to be a church of and for the poor.

The archbishop noted that Pope Francis, in taking St. Francis of Assisi's name, demonstrated the conviction that it is "his ministry and the church's ministry to be in solidarity with the poor." Three days later the new pope said in a speech, "Oh, how I wish for a church that is poor and that is for the poor."

Pope Francis is "calling us to greater simplicity and humility, both individually and as the church," Archbishop Aymond said. The pope, he added, "wants us to become more simple and humble so that we will then have bigger hearts to reach out to the poor." But what does that imply in terms of action? The archbishop said:

-- "We are called . . . to care about those living under the interstate, to look for street people, to care for the hungry in our soup kitchens and parish food banks."

-- "We are called to bring freedom to those who have been held captive, to those who are not free because of addictions or because they are involved in gangs."

-- "We are called to care for those who are oppressed because of violence, racism or revenge."

-- "We are called to care for those who are shunned because of disabilities."

-- "We are called to respect human life whenever and wherever it is threatened -- whether it be the unborn child, the terminally ill, the AIDS patient or the prisoner on death row."

The reason to serve others in these ways is "not just because it is a nice thing to do or because it is politically correct," Archbishop Aymond said. The reason, he said, is that "we are the anointed of the Lord Jesus, and we walk in his footsteps. We carry on his mission in our daily lives."