Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam and the death penalty

Today's newspapers report on the yesterday's execution of Saddam Hussein, but earlier this week, Catholic News Service reported that Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told Italy's La Repubblica newspaper that he expressed hope that the deposed dictator would not be executed. "There is no doubt" that Saddam was a ruthless dictator responsible for hundreds of deaths, said Cardinal Martino. "But one does not compensate for one crime with another crime." Religion News Service reported the comments as reaffirming the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to capital punishment.

Meanwhile, in another story, Catholic News Service reports that in America, support for the death penalty wanes as life without parole gains public favor.
As 2006 came to an end, capital punishment was making headlines for what it is not doing: overall declining use, waning support and recent challenges at the state levels about how it is conducted.

Shifting public support for capital punishment is a "ray of good news" for Frank McNeirney, co-founder of Catholics Against Capital Punishment, who said he hopes the trend continues.

Death penalty statistics in a year-end report from the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington offered reasons for optimism among opponents of capital punishment. For starters, the group noted the results of a newly released Gallup Poll showing that more Americans support alternative sentences of life without parole over the death penalty as punishment for murder.

The center also reported that U.S. death sentences are the lowest they have been in 30 years; executions have sharply declined and the number of people on death row has decreased. During 2006, 53 people were executed, down from 60 in 2005 and 98 in 1999, the report said.

McNeirney, who founded Catholics Against Capital Punishment with his wife, Ellen, 14 years ago in their Maryland home, said the change in attitude against the death penalty has been developing over recent years as more people, and jury members in particular, have become aware of the availability of life without parole sentences. Only Alaska and New Mexico currently do not have life without parole sentences, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

You can read more here.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The spiral of death

Bishop Dale J. Melczek of Gary recently spoke at a Catholic-Jewish program regarding the genocide in Darfur. Bishop Melczek reported that, despite all the humanitarian and diplomatic efforts, "the spiral of death continues." Catholic News Service reports:
The situation in Darfur is a "test of our humanity," Bishop Dale J. Melczek of Gary said at a Dec. 18 Catholic-Jewish program on the crisis in this region of Sudan.

Speaking at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, Bishop Melczek said that despite all the humanitarian and diplomatic efforts "the spiral of death continues" in Darfur.

More than 100 people of various faiths came together at the university's Alumni Hall to hear from representatives of Catholic Relief Services and American Jewish World Service, two agencies providing emergency humanitarian relief to Darfur.

At least 200,000 people have died in Darfur and more than 2 million people have been displaced since 2003 when fighting escalated between rebel groups and government troops and Arab militias known as Janjaweed.

Despite a May peace agreement meant to end the conflict, the fighting has continued and threatens to spread to neighboring Chad, where many displaced people from Darfur are taking shelter.

You can, and should, read more here.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

World Day of Peace

Pope Benedict XVI's World Day of Peace Message: Both Gift and Task, begins:
At the beginning of the new year, I wish to extend prayerful good wishes for peace to Governments, leaders of nations and all men and women of good will. In a special way, I invoke peace upon all those experiencing pain and suffering, those living under the threat of violence and armed aggression, and those who await their human and social emancipation, having had their dignity trampled upon. I invoke peace upon children, who by their innocence enrich humanity with goodness and hope, and by their sufferings compel us all to work for justice and peace. Out of concern for children, especially those whose future is compromised by exploitation and the malice of unscrupulous adults, I wish on this World Day of Peace to encourage everyone to reflect on the theme: "The Human Person, the Heart of Peace." I am convinced that respect for the person promotes peace and that, in building peace, the foundations are laid for an authentic integral humanism. In this way a serene future is prepared for coming generations.

The entire message is available here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Social Justice Calendar

Okay, we know that we are late for the month of December, but we present the following calendar of dates with a relation to social justice anyway. We include January and February, and will re-post them at a later entry.

December, 2006
1st * World AIDS Day
2nd * North American Martyrs in El Salvador (Sisters Maura Clark, Ita
Ford, Dorothy Kazel and laywoman Jean Donovan, killed on this day in
2nd * International Day for the Abolition of Slavery
3rd * International Day of Disabled Persons
5th * 12th * Hanukkah
7th * Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope: The Pastoral Constitution on the
Church in The Modern World * Vatican II, accepted by Paul VI- 1965.
8th * Immaculate Conception
10th * Human Rights Day (United Nations)
12th * Our Lady of Guadalupe
12th * Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe
14th * St. John of the Cross
25th * Christmas
26th * Jan 1 * Kwanzaa (African Heritage)
28th * Feast of the Holy Innocents
29th * Jan 1 * Hajj (Annual Islamic Pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia)
30th * On Social Concern (Encyclical letter by John Paul II * 1987.
Condemns the wealth gap between Northern and Southern Hemispheres, proxy wars by US and USSR, exaggerated security concerns, the arms trade, poor nations driven into debt, consumerism in the rich nations, unemployment and underemployment elsewhere.)
31st * Last day of the UN Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997 *

January 2007
Poverty Awareness Month (Catholic Campaign for Human Development)
1st * Mary, Mother of God
1st * World Day of Peace
6th - Epiphany
7th * Baptism of the Lord
7th * 13th - National Migration Week (US Conference of Catholic
15th - Martin Luther King, Jr.
16th * Religious Freedom Day
18th * Chinese New Year (Confucian/Daoist/Buddhist)
20th * Islamic New Year
22nd * Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope (US &
Mexican Bishops' Pastoral Letter on Latin Americans immigrating to the US *
17th * International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
27th * Auschwitz Death Camp Liberation, 1945
28th * The Puebla Conference Document, 1979 (Latin American bishops'
appropriation of Vatican II in the conditions of widespread
impoverishment throughout their continent * origin of the phrase 'option for the
30th * Gandhi's Death, 1948
31st * Thomas Merton's Birth, 1915

February, 2007
African American History Month
2nd - Presentation of the Lord (Feast)
11th * World Day of the Sick
13th * Economic Justice in South Africa * Pastoral Statement (1999)
14th * Valentine's Day
19th * President's Day
21st * Ash Wednesday
22nd * Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Apostle
25th - First Sunday of Lent

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Combatants for Peace

Combatants for Peace: a Palestinian ex-prisoner and Israeli ex-combatant will speak on how they gave up violence and came together to form a vision for peace. They are on a 22 city tour of the U.S. This event is hosted by Brit Tzedek v'Shalom (Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace) and Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace.

Saturday, Jan 20, 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the, Bethlehem Town Hall, 445 Delaware Ave., Delmar. Doors open at 3:45 p.m.

The "Combatants for Peace" movement was started jointly by Palestinians and Israelis, who have taken an active part in the cycle of violence; Israelis as soldiers in the Israeli army and Palestinians as part of the violent struggle for Palestinian freedom. After brandishing weapons for so many years, and having seen one another only through weapon sights, we have decided to put down our guns, and to fight for peace.

Sulaiman Al Hamri spent four-and-a-half years in Israeli prison for his involvement in anti-occupation protests. He is the Palestinian coordinator for Combatants for Peace. Elik Elhanan was in an Israeli combat unit for three years. His sister was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber. He is the Israeli coordinator for Combatants for Peace.

You can learn more about Combatants for Peace here.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Save Darfur

Catholic News Service reports on this special weekend of prayer:
Religious leaders in the Save Darfur Coalition urged prayer the weekend of Dec. 9-10 to call attention to the ongoing atrocities in the Darfur region of western Sudan.

"Nobody knows the exact number" of those killed in the conflict, said David Rubenstein, executive director of the coalition, although he estimated 400,000 have died in the violence.

"There are people dying every day, and at risk of death every day," Rubenstein said during a Dec. 5 conference call with reporters. "They are being burned from their homes and villages."

"Mostly, what they need is security," said Rubenstein, adding that "3.5 million people in toto have been affected by this conflict, and the systems of survival have shut down."

In a related matter, 78 religious organizations, including five Catholic groups, signed a full-page ad in the Dec. 5 issue of USA Today issuing a "call to your conscience" on Darfur. Catholic signers were the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Pax Christi USA and the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.

You can read more here.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


The Franciscans who operate offer a number of important resources, not the least of which is something called Catholic Update. If you have not had an opportunity to check this out, we recommend you go here to read Advent: Celebrating Promise, Joy, Hope by Kenneth R. Overberg, S.J.:
We are reminded that discipleship has a cost. The haunting figure of John the Baptizer now stands in our midst, leading us to ask: “What then shall we do?” His response still rings true (a message to be affirmed by Jesus): generous care for those in need, fairness in business practice, no violence. Advent themes suddenly present us with profound social, economic and political challenges. Issues of global poverty and hunger, corporate corruption, and national policies of war and nuclear arms become gospel concerns.

No hunger, no cheating, no violence. What a challenge for us and our society! Paradoxically, accepting this challenge of discipleship leads to authentic joy.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

The Consultation Center of the Albany diocese will sponsor Blessed Are the Peacemakers: An Advent Prayer for Peace on Monday, December 4 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, 35 Adams Place, Delmar.
You are invited to an evening of prayer, waiting for the coming of the Prince of Peace. How do we open ourselves to the Prince of Peace in our own lives? How do we bring the Prince of Peace to others? Time will be given to readings from Scripture and inspired Peacemakers who will teach us peace, peacemaking, and the meaning of non-violence for Christians. Leader: Joanne St. Hilaire, CSJ, MA English, MA Liberal Studies. Donations will be accepted. For registration and further information call the Consultation Center at 489-4431.