LETTER TO POPE FRANCISPosted: August 3, 2015
Dear Pope Francis,
We are Catholics and fellow Christians, and other people of peace and justice, living in the United States where you will be visiting this September. We respectfully ask that you listen to our request and publicly respond to it with resoluteness equal to the gravity of the matter here raised.
In your recent encyclical, ‘Laudato Si’, you proclaim that “War always does grave harm to the environment and to the cultural riches of peoples, risks which are magnified when one considers nuclear arms and biological weapons.” Visiting the United States, the most prolific polluter and, not coincidentally, the greatest war maker on the globe, is a challenge and an opportunity that we pray you do not fail to take advantage of.
You have rightly denounced the terrorism of ISIS and similar organizations, and you have appropriately named the murder of more than one million Armenians by the Turkish state in 1915 as “the first genocide of the 20th century.” There were no Catholic chaplains in the Turkish military in 1915 and the banners of ISIS are not displayed today in Catholic churches. The U.S. military, on the other hand, is predominantly Christian with one-third of the force Catholic, so that it might be hoped that your denunciation of terrorism and genocide might have a more positive effect here and now. We beg you to speak out just as clearly and publicly denounce the terrorism and genocide that your host country, the United States, is even now inflicting on the Muslim and Christian Arab people of the Middle East and the people of Afghanistan. Decades of aggression including sanctions, bombings, invasions, arming of insurgents, have left millions dead, many more millions displaced and homeless. Assassinations by remotely controlled drones destabilize civil societies and kill thousands of innocents. Thousands have been imprisoned and tortured. Many lands are being made desolate and poisoned, and ancient communities are being devastated.
In September you will be visiting a nation that is committing a trillion dollars to the development and production of a whole new generation of nuclear weapons, threatening unprecedented destruction of creation, while many of its own people lack the means needed to live lives of simple dignity. The global inequality that you decry, wherein the poorest suffer the brunt of diminishing resources and the ravages of chaos in the climate, is not judged by those who control the government and the economy in the United States as a problem to be solved, but an advantage to be defended at all costs. With more than 800 U.S. military bases already around the globe, the lands of indigenous people are still being plundered against their protests to construct even more bases.
We do appreciate the pleas for peace and justice that you and your predecessors have made over these horrible years. These good words are only rarely taught by the Catholic bishops, pastors and educational institutions in the United States. They have been systematically undermined by U.S. Catholic institutions to the point where the vast majority of the Catholic faithful, Catholic soldiers especially, are completely unaware that they have ever been spoken.
At the end of World War II, Albert Camus lamented that, even as an unbeliever, he was one of millions who waited for but never heard any word from Rome against the carnage he witnessed. The condemnation from Rome was voiced, he later discovered, but voiced in a style “not at all clear.”
We hope that you will not repeat the error of your predecessors. “What the world expects of Christians,” Camus insisted, “is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear, and that they should voice their condemnation in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest person.”
Pope Francis, we understand that you come to the United States as a diplomat and as a pastor, but in these perilous times we need you here as a prophet most of all. Please do not speak to President Obama, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Catholic bishops, and the American people, without making a clear denunciation of the complicity of our nation’s government, its people, its institutions and its churches in crimes against humanity and God’s creation.
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