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Parish revives Assisi pledge against violence, war
Ed Langlois
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Thursday, April 2, 2009
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PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS)—Discouraged by developments in Iraq, a committee at one Portland Catholic parish is about to launch a faith-based initiative toward peaceful resolutions.
At St. Juan Diego Parish in September 2007, parishioners will be able to take the Assisi pledge, a statement made by 200 religious leaders at a 2002 meeting in Italy convened by Pope John Paul II. The meeting took place in Assisi, Italy, the home of St. Francis, who is often evoked because of his life of nonviolence and efforts for peace.
The pledge says, in part, "We commit ourselves to proclaiming that violence and terrorism are incompatible with the authentic spirit of religion."
The organizer of the St. Juan Diego project says a desire for moving past warfare in Iraq is becoming more and more mainstream and a great many parishioners would be ready to take the pledge. He plans to have a Spanish translation and hopes the idea of the pledge will spread to other parishes.
"Individuals I have met at various social justice groups sense the need for another direction and want to invite fellow parishioners to journey with them," said John Kingery, a member of the parish's peace and justice committee.
"Talking with others outside of social justice groups, I see and hear that same desire," he added.
The U.S. Catholic bishops are thinking along the same lines. "The current situation in Iraq is unacceptable and unsustainable," wrote Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., chairman of the bishops' Committee on International Policy, in a July 17 letter to Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio.
The letter, written after Ryan invited the bishops' reflections on ending the conflict, said the bishops "share your deep concern for the dangerous and deteriorating situation in Iraq" and would welcome the opportunity "to meet with you and other policymakers to discuss ways to pursue the goal of a 'responsible transition' to bring an end to the war."
"Too many Iraqi and American lives have been lost," Bishop Wenski wrote. "Too many Iraqi communities have been shattered. Too many civilians have been driven from their homes." He also said the "human and financial costs of the war are staggering" and that church and government officials should use their "shared moral tradition" to guide their dialogue with other leaders in seeking a way to "bring about a morally responsible end to the war."
In Oregon, Kingery also plans to follow up on an idea from a local interfaith peace group. Members of People of Faith for Peace gave him a symbolic lamp that has been traveling to local churches, synagogues and mosques for a year as a reminder for prayers for peace. At the 2002 Assisi meeting, religious leaders lit terra cotta oil lamps as signs of hope.
Kingery, a database administrator, is planning to have the lamp at a local Catholic parish, perhaps during Advent. Then, as has been the custom for a year, the lamp would be handed off to a congregation from another denomination or faith.
"It's a universal message," said Kingery, who last year spoke at parishes about the Assisi pledge and the Church's teaching on the four pillars of peace—truth, love, justice and freedom.

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