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December 2017 NewsNotes


Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace

December 2017



Greetings Friend!


So much of the news today is especially hard to hear. Just in today's news in the U.S., the stories focused on tweets that promote hate toward Muslims, sexual assaults by media and government employees, attempts to pass a new tax law that would violate most of the principles of Catholic social teaching on just economics, and, of course, the on-going scandals surrounding the White House. Secondary stories were breaking ground on the growing likelihood of war with North Korea. I am left with a deep concern for the future of our nation and the world.

Thankfully, Advent starts Sunday. I have always found it to be a season of hope. I look forward to that aspect again this year. But as I was thinking about the readings from Isaiah and others who offer such hope, I find myself identifying as never before with the oppression the people of Israel felt.

I do not know where my reflections will bring me this year but I have found uplift in two books I've read lately. The Root of War is Fear is Jim Forest's work on his friend, Thomas Merton's writing on war and violence. A second book just published by Orbis is Forest's memoir/biography of Daniel Berrigan entitled At Play in the Lion's Den. Each book does a great job of making sometimes difficult author's writing more accessible by providing context and personal recollections.

Another sign of hope for me is what leads this newsletter. The Pope's condemnation of the possession of nuclear weapons and the movement of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative closer to the heart of the church offer much to work on.

Blessed Advent to all!


Peace and all good,


Frank McCann
Peace through Justice Facilitator




  1. Pope Francis condemns the possession of nuclear weapons
  2. Catholic Nonviolence Initiative Enters a New Phase
  3. Day of Action in UK for Citizens’ Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
  4. Host a Viewing Party for the Sultan and the Saint Dec 26th
  5. Slaves for Sale in 2017!
  6. Pope Francis Issues Peace Day Message for 2018
  7. Trump Ends Temporary Protected Status for Haitians
  8. Pope Francis Visits Myanmar and Bangladesh
  9. DACA
  10. Congregation signs letter asking congress to prohibit drilling in the arctic
  11. Endangered Sumatran Rhinos
  12. Save the Scottish Dunes
  13. Don’t Destroy the Clean Power Plan!
  14. Advent Reflection Books from Pax Christi USA


Peace and Nonviolence




Pope Francis condemns the possession of nuclear weapons


In an audience with the International Symposium on Disarmament, November 10-11, 2017 organized by the Dicastery on Integral Human Development, Pope Francis moved the church’s teaching from a grudging acceptance of nuclear weapons for the purpose of deterrence to an outright condemnation of the possession of nuclear weapons as immoral.

Pope Francis said: “If we take into account the risk of accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned. For they exist in a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race.”

Pope Francis has been moving toward this explicit teaching since taking office in 2013. He cited several reasons for the change in position, mostly due to the greater instability among nations, the spread of nuclear weapons and the risk of their use by terrorist organizations. Each of those factors weakens the arguments in favor of the previous position allowing for possession in the cause of deterrence. Pope Francis also noted the modernization of nuclear weapons being undertaken by nuclear powers which includes miniaturization for tactical use—which would surely escalate in a conflict—to the cost of such weapons in the global fight against poverty and inequality.

The pope went on to praise those who worked to secure the UN treaty to ban nuclear weapons and congratulated ICAN for winning the Nobel Peace Prize in that effort. The audience Pope Francis addressed included leaders of the UN and NATO, and diplomats from the US, Russia, Iran, and South Korea.

The Pope’s remarks prompted Cardinal Turkson, Secretary of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, to begin an editing of the Compendium on the Social Teaching of the Church, to reflect the new teaching.





Catholic Nonviolence Initiative Enters a New Phase


In a webinar offered earlier in November, the international Catholic Nonviolence Initiative (CNI) urged those who see nonviolence at the heart of the gospel message to begin to actively incorporate nonviolence teaching into their small groups, parishes schools and organizations. Noting that the bishops of many nations are not yet committed to nonviolence, CNI recommends formation of teams who will meet regularly with the bishops and with pastors to pass on a correct understanding of nonviolence, especially that “nonviolence is decidedly not passive” and to explain how much more efficient nonviolence is than violent conflict.

CNI has formed ‘table groups’ of scholars, theologians, church leaders and nonviolence practitioners to research five areas for submission to the Vatican for a possible encyclical on nonviolence. The five areas are: foundational theology and nonviolence, biblical foundations, nonviolence and just peace, integration of nonviolence at all church levels, and the power of nonviolence. A second CNI conference with the Vatican is planned for January, 2019.

The work to date of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative including it meetings with the Dicastery on Integral Human Development will be summarized in a new book from Orbis Press entitled: Choosing Peace, which will be available after January 1.

You can find many resources on the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative on their website.

The November webinar can be viewed here.



Day of Action in UK for Citizens’ Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons


Because the U.K. is among the nations refusing to sign the UN Treaty banning nuclear weapons, there is a movement to adopt a Citizens’ Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is holding a day of action on December 9 th , the day before the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to ICAN, the group responsible for negotiating the UN ban on nuclear weapons.

According to the website, “At a time when the British government is boycotting the ban, it's apt that the Nobel Prize Committee has chosen to recognise the movement that is challenging the nuclear states that seek to maintain the status quo. We're reminded that we cannot wait for the nuclear states to realise the importance of working towards a nuclear free world themselves - we must continue to take matters into our own hands.”

Actions will include a die-in at the Ministry of Defense. Other actions will take place in Abingdon, Battersea, Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester and Portsmouth among others.

You can sign the Citizens’ Treaty here.





Host a Viewing Party for the Sultan and the Saint Dec 26th


The Franciscan Action Network (FAN) has been promoting the film the Sultan and the Saint, the story of St. Francis traveling unarmed during the Crusades to meet the Sultan, leader of the Muslim armies to seek peace. The Public Broadcast System has announced they will broadcast the film on December 16 at 8 PM. (You may have to check local listings!). Unity Productions Foundation (UPF) producers of the film are encouraging groups to join together to view the film that evening. They have set up a registration website to sign up to host a party. When registered, you will receive a discussion guide and organizer packet. IF you cannot host a party, check the registration website to see if there is a party being hosted near you.

If the day after Christmas is inconvenient, be aware that PBS often repeats broadcasts, so check local listings. The film can also be recorded to show at another time. Alternative dates for viewing parties can also be registered on the UPF registration website.

“It is our dream that people will come together for these viewing parties in homes, churches, mosques, retreat centers, motherhouses, and other venues to watch the film and engage in conversation to begin building relationships with one another.”






Slaves for Sale in 2017!


The International Organization for Migration (IOM) first reported selling of slaves out in the open in Libya in April of this year. CNN sent reporters to verify the claim and found at least nine locations where mainly Sudanese migrants are publicaly sold for as little as $400.00 in order “to pay debts owed to smugglers.” Many of these migrants, once sold and used for farm or other labor are returned to their homelands. More sites are rumored to be active in Niger.

Human Rights Watch claims the mistreatment of migrants in Libya is rampant. That fact was communicated first hand to those of us who served at the Jungle in Calais in 2016. Many refugees, primarily Sudanese, but also Eritreans and Ethiopians reported being imprisoned, forced into labor and otherwise abused in Libya.

The U.K. has led an effort among European nations to force the Libyan Coast Guard to seal its borders, preventing boats from leaving its shores for Europe. This “traps” refugees inside Libya, making them easy prey for traffickers.




Pope Francis Issues Peace Day Message for 2018


Pope Francis issued his Peace Day Message for 2018 entitled: “Migrants and refugees: men and women searching for peace”. He writes, ”In a spirit of compassion, let us embrace all those fleeing from war and hunger, or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands.”

Francis goes on to note that opening our hearts is not enough. He calls for all men and women of good will to take four steps to welcome migrants.

  1. “Welcoming” by creating wider doors, and legal pathways by which migrants can enter our nations.
  2. “Protecting” the dignity of every migrant and keep them from exploitation.
  3. “Promoting” especially access to education for all migrants.
  4. “Integrating” migrants and refugees fully into the life of our societies.

Francis mentions that the Dicastery for Integral Human Development (formerly the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace) has developed twenty action points that will enable us to live the four verbs mentioned above. (To the best of my knowledge, those 20 action steps are not yet posted online.)

Find the Peace Day Statement here.




Trump Ends Temporary Protected Status for Haitians


President Trump has ended the Temporary Protected Status of Haitians who were granted permission to stay in the United States after the earthquake in 2010. Since then, Haiti has endured at least two other major hurricanes that continue to set back what little progress has been made in post-earthquake recovery.

Much of what recovery Haiti has made is dependent upon remittances sent from the TPS grantees in the United States to their families in Haiti. Those remittances account for 25% of Haiti’s GDP. Ending those remittances will significantly slow Haiti’s recovery.

Pax Christi USA’s statement on Haitian TPS points to the consistency of the current administration in not offering humanitarian aid to people and nations of color.

Saying that TPS status was never meant to give permanent residence to Haitians, or any other group, the president clearly never considered the ability of Haiti to welcome back and absorb the 59,000 or so who enjoy temporary protected status in the U.S. They must self-deport to Haiti by July of 2019 or face deportation.




Pope Francis Visits Myanmar and Bangladesh


Pope Francis arrived in Myanmar on November 28 to address that nation’s treatment of it Muslim minority members referred to as Rohingya. They are being persecuted, and driven from their homes by the Buddhist majority nation’s authorities and have been forced to flee. The UN and other groups consider their treatment to be ethnic cleansing. Secretary of State Tillerson used the same designation just days before the Pope’s arrival.

Advised by Cardinal Archbishop Bo of Myanmar, the pope avoided use of the term Rohingya and did not refer to ethnic cleansing to the chagrin of human rights advocates. Instead, he appealed to Buddhist leaders to join in recognizing differences in religion as non-threatening, urging all religious leaders to set the example by demonstrating tolerance and understanding.

In Bangladesh, the Pope praised the people for the services provided to the over 600,000 Rohingya who have fled to their nation.






The plight of youth whose threat of deportation as undocumented youth were deferred under President Obama remain unresolved at this time. There are attempts by members of congress to tie a solution for the DACA youth in with a continuing resolution to fund the government or with some other legislative measure. Even Republicans think that there are enough votes in the House and Senate to pass DACA relief if it is allowed to come to a vote as a stand-alone bill. However, it has not been the practice of the dominant party (now the Republicans) to allow such votes to occur unless it can be passed by the majority party alone.

Recent comments by the president on twitter make resolving the matter more difficult than it needs to be. All who are able are asked to continue calling their congressional representatives and senators asking them for a clean DACA bill.


Earth Care



Congregation signs letter asking congress to prohibit drilling in the arctic


Sr. Sheila Lemieux, CSJP signed a letter representing the congregation asking the congress not to open the Arctic to oil drilling. Legislation to permit that drilling is incorporated into the tax reform bill that is taking all of the attention of congressional Republicans at this time.



Endangered Sumatran Rhinos


There are fewer than 100 Sumatran Rhinos thought to be left in the dense jungles of Indonesia and perhaps Myanmar. Their hard and hairy horns are valued in Chinese medicine and for dagger handles in the middle east and thus the survival of the rhino is threatened. A full-scale breeding program is thought to be the only way to save these animals.

You can sign a petition, urging the government to begin such a breeding program.



Save the Scottish Dunes


A proposal to build another golf course in Scotland has been submitted (not by Trump) and has received some formidable support. However, the proposed course in Couls Link Sutherland would encompass parts of one of the few remaining large area of undeveloped sand dunes remaining in Scotland, lands which are protected by UK and European law. Objections to the proposed course can be made until 22 December, 2017.

To voice your objection you may read more about the project and sign a petition against it.



Don’t Destroy the Clean Power Plan!


Prior to the Paris Accord negotiations, President Obama initiated a Clean Power Plan that would help the U.S. meet its Paris accord goals. The plan limited the use of coal and other fossil fuels and encouraged the continuing development of renewable fuel resources, solar and wind.

President Trump and his appointed EPA Director, Scott Pruitt are doing all they can to destroy the Clean Power Plan, promote coal and encourage more oil and gas production.

Friends of the Earth have provided a petition that you can sign telling the EPA not to destroy the clean power plan.



Advent Reflection Books from Pax Christi USA



Advent reflection books are available from Pax Christi, USA. These reflections are rooted in the daily scriptures and the spirituality of nonviolence. The booklets entitled: The Work of God’s Hands are in stock and available for shipment, or for immediate download. Each is priced at $3.50.

"We must be signs of hope and healing in the midst of the cultural reality in which we find ourselves."

Ann Rutan, CSJP