Thursday, March 23, 2006

Dear Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict XVI
Apostolic Palace
00120 Vatican City

Dear Holy Father of the Roman Catholic Church

It has been several days now since the death of Tom Fox, one of the four Christian Peacemakers abducted in Iraq last year. In many parts of the world, Christians have grieved his death and have worried about the fate of the other three Christian hostages. They, like me, have been awed and humbled by their powerful example of the spirit of Jesus.

We live in a world crippled by war – and not just by war, but by justifications of violence and revenge, partly by Christians. Churches throughout the world have been caught up in this spirit of war and vengeance, thereby doing great harm to the spirit of Christ.

Is it not time for the whole Christian church to formally proclaim that war is incompatible with Jesus’ teachings?

Christ taught that we must use kindness, compassion, and wisdom to turn our enemies into friends. He taught us to use pacifism and forgiveness, not violence and revenge. There is no end that is worth the cost of war.

I realize that most Catholics are peace-loving people and work throughout their lives to reduce war and suffering. They are responding to the spirit of Christ in their lives and to the gospels they have read. But the world desperately needs a formal declaration that war is contrary to the spirit of Jesus. Then those churches that do support war, either actively or passively, would be pressed to justify their position. I believe in time such a proclamation would bring the world closer to real long-term peace.

Your position as leader of the Roman Catholic Church is very powerful, even for non-Catholic churches. If the Roman Catholic Church were to proclaim that war and violence is contrary to the spirit of Jesus, then this would have an impact on all churches. Just as Pope John Paul tried to stop the war in Iraq and tried to bring the world’s attention to the plight of the world’s poor, you can use your role to bring the world to greater peace.

Please reflect on the spirit of this message. Thank you.

In peace,

Mailed today, along with similar letters to leaders of other churches in Canada and the US, before I heard that the other three hostages were freed.


At 11:49 PM, Blogger Liz Opp said...

I love the clarity of this letter, and of this statement in particular: "If the Roman Catholic Church were to proclaim that war and violence as contrary to the spirit of Jesus, then this would have an impact on all churches."

Thanks for sharing this letter here. It gives me food for thought about speaking truth to power and expecting accountability from certain leaders and institutions.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

At 12:22 PM, Blogger david said...

Do let us know if the dear fellow writes back. Maybe he'll grant you an audience.

Didn't one of the early Quaker ministers visit the Sultan of Turkey of some such?

At 3:30 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

I have to say I'm not one of Pope Benedict's biggest fan. Indeed I have serious issues with his treatment of homosexuals and women, his Eurocentricsim and obsession with temporal power. But, I have to say that he is actually closer to an abolition of war within Catholic teaching than most might be aware of. Three years ago when he talked about a forthcoming condensed version of the Catechism, he stated that two issues -- the dealth penalty and the Just War doctrine -- will reflect a certain level of "evolution" in thought. The death penalty was already disparaged in the 1992 catechism but regarding the Iraq war and the Just War theory Ratzinger went on to say, "There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a "just war."

For more of a discussion regarding the differences between Catholic neoconservatives and the Vatican (and there really are some), see this article from the Houston Catholic Worker.

I think your letter will fall on very sympathetic ears. :)


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