Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Representing Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, Maryknoll Sisters, and Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Catholic Nonviolence Initiative update

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As a founding member of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns participates in steering the initiative and promoting the outcomes of the Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference. The following article was published in the January-February 2017 issue of NewsNotes.

The Nonviolence and Just Peace conference in Rome in April brought together 83 Catholic peacemakers to discuss their efforts to promote nonviolence in the countries where they serve. They concluded the conference by issuing an appeal to the Catholic Church to become a “living witness” of the nonviolence teachings of Jesus. They urged the Church to move away from the “just war” theory promulgated by Saint Augustine in the fourth century and instead develop a “just peace” approach. 

The appeal was delivered to Pope Francis by Cardinal Peter Turkson, then president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and a participant in the conference. On January 1, Cardinal Turkson became the first leader of the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, and the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers will all be merged into this new “super dicastery.” 

All this is to say that Cardinal Turkson is in a key position to support the appeal, which includes a request for Pope Francis to write an encyclical on nonviolence.

In an interview published in the National Catholic Reporter last September, Cardinal Turkson said conference participants support the shift in Church teaching because the just war theory, which was originally intended to make wars difficult to justify by deeming them morally acceptable only under certain conditions such as self-defense, “too often has been used to endorse – rather than prevent or limit – war.”   

Since the conference, we have shared in NewsNotes reflections on the practice and spirituality of active nonviolence by Maryknoll Missioners in the Vatican conference. You can read those at 

We have also endorsed the “Appeal to the Catholic Church to Re-commit to the Centrality of Gospel Nonviolence.” Thank you to all of you who have also added your names online to endorse the appeal. Please continue to share the appeal with your faith community and ask more people to add their names online as supporters at

Working with the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns to promote the appeal are Pax Christi International, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), and others, in a project called the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative.  

“Affirming the vision and practice of active nonviolence at the heart of the Catholic Church,” the Initiative seeks to build greater awareness in the Church of the successful practice of active nonviolence by Catholic peacemakers around the world and how the spirituality of nonviolence is a vital part of our tradition. Visit the website at 

At the request of participants in the April conference and the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, Pope Francis wrote the fiftieth World Day of Peace Message on active nonviolence, the first major statement of a pope on nonviolence.  

In his message, Pope Francis pledged “the assistance of the Church in every effort to build peace through active and creative nonviolence”.  He began 2017 with daily tweets about nonviolence. Three of the pope’s tweets are pictured below.

Pope Francis 3 tweets

Gerry Lee, the director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, is a member of the steering committee for the initiative and is very much involved with promoting the appeal. In December, Gerry joined other leaders of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative at the Vatican to plan the next steps after the World Day of Peace message on January 1.   

During the same week, Pope Francis publicly affirmed his commitment to promoting creative nonviolence in his remarks with six new ambassadors to the Holy See. He urged them to cultivate active nonviolence in their work as diplomats:

“[Nonviolence] is not the same as weakness or passivity; rather it presupposes firmness, courage and the ability to face issues and conflicts with intellectual honesty, truly seeking the common good over and above all partisan interest, be it ideological, economic or political.”

“In the course of the past century, marred by wars and genocides of unheard-of proportions, we have nonetheless seen outstanding examples of how nonviolence embraced with conviction and practiced consistently, can yield significant results, also on the social and political plane,” the pope said. “Some peoples, and indeed entire nations, thanks to the efforts of nonviolent leaders, peacefully achieved the goals of freedom and justice.”

The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative will be promoting both the appeal and the World Day of Peace message throughout 2017. Eli McCarthy of the director of Justice and Peace for CMSM and Marie Dennis both wrote articles for “To Go Forth,” a blog from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development ( and Marie Dennis wrote an article for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious  ( The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns offers a sixteen-page Lenten reflection guide that includes stories from participants at the Nonviolence conference.

The initiative hosted its first regional meeting for Catholic peacemakers in South Africa in December. Maryknoll Sister Janice McLaughlin of Zimbabwe attended. Plans are underway for more regional meetings in the near future.

Faith in action: Learn more about nonviolence in the Catholic tradition by listening to four webinars recorded by the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative at

Pray, study, and act with the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns “2017 Lenten Reflection Guide: A Journey with Gospel Nonviolence” which includes testimonies from Catholic peacemakers at the conference. Lent begins March 1. Download the guide at

Congratulations to Marie Dennis, National Catholic Reporter’s “Person of the Year” for 2016 

from National Catholic Reporter:

“Marie Dennis, [former director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns and] co-president of Pax Christi International, has long known that making peace in today’s world requires not only new ways of acting, but also new ways of seeing and thinking.

“In this regard, 2016 could prove to be a watershed year. In April, at an unprecedented Vatican conference, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi brought together activists, academics and church officials to re-examine how the church thinks about war and peace, violence and nonviolence. The resulting document, “An Appeal to the Catholic Church to Recommit to the Centrality of Gospel Nonviolence,” lays the foundation for a fundamental shift in church teaching.” …


To read the entire editorial, go to