Catholics are being invited to help rebuild communities in the wake of the pandemic and help the work towards peace as church leaders urge Christian communities to mark Peace Sunday.
Pax Christi member Anne Dodd, who will be giving a talk at the end of each Mass in her Abingdon parish in Portsmouth diocese, said: “I hope to convey that peacemaking is a central part of traditional Catholic belief. I’ll tell people where Pax Christi comes from, and quote from Pope Francis’ World Peace Day message of 1 January,” she adds, aware that with live-streamed Masses she is addressing a much bigger congregation than usual.
In Leeds, Pax Christi members Tim and Teresa Devereux will offer fellow parishioners a prayer card, while Arn Dekker has asked his Cambridge parish priest to allow a retiring collection for Pax Christi. He reports: “I am contacting the children's liturgy group and the choir, and I’ll ask for the bidding prayers provided by Pax Christi to be used.”
Dioceses of Birmingham, Brentwood, Hexham and Newcastle and Southwark are amongst those urging on their websites that Peace Sunday 2022 is marked. Diocesan Justice and Peace contacts have used social media to draw attention to resources. The Westminster and North-West Justice and Peace e-bulletins have also promoted the 16 January focus on peace.
This year the theme chosen by Pope Francis for his 1 January message is: “Education, work and dialogue between generations: tools for building lasting peace.”
He said: “All can work together to build a more peaceful world, starting from the hearts of individuals and relationships in the family, then within society and with the environment, and all the way up to relationships between peoples and nations.”
In his message to parishes for Peace Sunday, the Pax Christi National President, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool, acknowledged that the past year has been one of unprecedented and continuing challenges. “We are all conscious of the need to restore and rebuild our communities here and around the world, accepting that we need new ways of working and relating to each other, he says.
He urged practical support of Pax Christi’s peace work: “The Christian message of peace, through reconciliation, justice and nonviolence, can offer hope and direction in these times.”
Fr Rob Esdaile of Thames Ditton parish in Arundel and Brighton Diocese, who writes Pax Christi’s materials for parishes, said: “Peace Sunday invites us to celebrate and commit to a journey together to the Christian tradition of peace-making and to reject the logic of violence. The call to inter-generational dialogue has a particular resonance as the Church walks together on the synodal path.
“I hope that in my own parish and in parishes around the country that art of listening to each other will help us all to become better witnesses to peace in our world.”
In his view the Catholic Church is greatly blessed by the tradition of making 1 January World Day Of Peace. “For 55 years we have been invited at the very start of the Year to commit once more to peacemaking,” he said.
Pax Christi England and Wales, a membership organisation, hopes to regain momentum since last year’s observance of Peace Sunday was so curtailed by Covid. It relies on Peace Sunday donations to help fund its work, and those were down by 75 percent in 2021. This goes alongside providing materials for parishes, schools and families to explore their role in peacemaking. Parishes are asked to print out the liturgy booklet which includes ready-to-use penitential prayers, homily reflections by Fr Rob Esdaile, and bidding prayers, as well as organise a collection. The Pax Christi England and Wales website offers activity and prayers pages for children’s liturgies and for schools.
Education Worker, Aisling Griffin, offers assembly and form-time notes and an artists for peace project, inviting young people to create images, videos, graphics, that illustrate the link between peace and care of creation.
Meanwhile, in Scotland this weekend, an annual letter to all parishes for a Day of Prayer for Peace Bishop William Nolan who is the Bishop of Galloway and President of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland Justice and Peace Commission, contrasted the vast sums spent on military spending with the millions of displaced people facing persecution and poverty. He called on Catholics to “recognise the dignity of our fellow human beings, particularly those who are strangers to us”.