Participants of landmark Vatican just war conference to meet again in Rome

by Joshua J. McElwee

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Several representatives of groups that participated in a landmark Vatican meeting last spring to reevaluate the Catholic church’s long-held just war theory will be meeting again in Rome next week to carry forward their discussions.

About 15 people will be meeting under the aegis of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, a new group created after the April meeting to focus on promoting the practice of nonviolence in church teaching.

Among those coming for the Dec. 19-20 meeting: the leaders of global peace group Pax Christi International, heads of several Pax Christi national sections, and representatives of the umbrella groups for both U.S. men and women religious.

The April conference was the first of its kind and was co-hosted by Pax Christi International and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice.

"There is no 'just war,'" the some 80 participants of the conference stated in a joint appeal at the end of the event, in which they also called on Pope Francis to consider writing an encyclical on peace-making.

"Too often the 'just war theory' has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war," they continued. "Suggesting that a 'just war' is possible also undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacities for nonviolent transformation of conflict."

News of next week’s follow-up meeting comes just after Francis released his message for 2017’s World Day of Peace, which took the theme “Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace.”

Speaking at a press conference releasing the peace message Monday, Cardinal Peter Turkson, the head of the pontifical council, said the pope is still considering whether to write an encyclical on non-violence.

Organizers of next week’s meeting of Catholic Nonviolence Initiative members said among those taking part are:

  • Marie Dennis and Rustenburg, South Africa Bishop Kevin Dowling, co-presidents of Pax Christi International;
  • Troyes, France Bishop Marc Stenger, president of Pax Christi France;
  • Pat Gaffney, general secretary of Pax Christi UK;
  • Notre Dame School Sr. Ann Scholz, Associate Director for Social Mission for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious;
  • Eli McCarthy, Director of Justice and Peace for the Conference of Major Superiors of Men;
  • Ken Butigan, director of the non-profit group Pace e Bene;
  • Gerry Lee, director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, and;
  • Franciscan Sr. Sheila Kinsey and Precious Blood Fr. Felix Mushobozi, representatives of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Union of Superior Generals (USG) and the Union of International Superior Generals (UISG).

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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