Monday, November 19, 2007

BILL and the Vatican Monday November 19, 2007

Sending this from Bill--so appropos right now with the Global work against the Death Penalty and at least one of us-- if not several of our Journey of Hope (JOH) folk-abolition-moratorium folk-- in Italy right now! Hope we all hear more on that trip soon. Soon we should have some old and new photos to post related to the Vatican and also plenty more from Texas "Journey" 2007... Please send me your items, photos, etc.

Edward - Mgagi- Edmary of Uganda will have more to say about these events/issues as well whether or not he was able to make these events in Italy.

Connie L. Nash


Bill Pelke

One cold December day in 1998 I received a call from Sergio D’Elia. Sergio was the director of Hands off Cain in Italy, an organization working for worldwide abolition of the death penalty. He had been on the Texas Journey a few months earlier when we marched to the State Capital in Austin behind our 24-foot Journey of Hope banner.

Sergio wanted some members of the Journey of Hope to come to Italy with our banner and lead a march to the Vatican on Christmas morning when the Pope would deliver his annual worldwide address. The purpose of the march was to ask the Pope to make a statement about the death penalty.

Kathy Harris and I flew to Rome with the Journey banner about a week before Christmas. Kathy and I did numerous interviews encouraging people to join the march. The Paula Cooper case was still very familiar on the minds of many Italians.

It was quite impressive to walk down the streets of Rome and see posters all over advertising the march to the Vatican.

Christmas day was quite an affair, beginning early in the morning as thousands gathered at a square called DA Campo Dei Fiori a San Pietro. Gordano Bruno, a philosopher, was burned at the stake in 1600 as a heretic at this square.

Several people spoke and a quartet of women sang. Kathy and Barbara Bacci, one of the organizers read the names of the one hundred and fifty men on the Texas death row who had written the Pope, asking to be remembered in prayers. I spoke about the death penalty and the importance of the international community in helping to bring about the worldwide abolition of it. Sam Reese Sheppard and Rev. Melodee Smith were to arrive before the march, but a flight delay made them miss the rally and march.

As the march toward Vatican began, the twenty-four-foot Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing banner led the march. Behind us were people carrying the flags of over one hundred cities. The mayor of Rome marched with us. According to the evening news there were as many as seven thousand people on our march to the Vatican.

When we arrived at the Vatican, there were already about thirty thousand gathered to hear the Pope’s annual Christmas address. We joined in with the crowd. Thousands more arrived before Pope John Paul II began to read his prepared speech. He suddenly stopped his reading and made mention of those who had marched to the Vatican protesting the death penalty. He thanked the organizers of the march and those who participated in it.

The purpose of the march was to ask the Pope to make a statement about the death penalty and John Paul II did just that. For the first time publicly, he called for worldwide abolition of the death penalty. He said that is was cruel and unnecessary. The crowd applauded his words.


PS Bill and others (Sister Helen too!)have some more old and newer notes on this experience and on the phrase that the death penalty "is/was cruel and unnecessary" which we hope to get to this blog soon.


For any who may not have seen mine, David's or others on the Global Moratorium, here's some great news & a wise comment:

And the sky did not fall November 15, 2007
This just popped up in my email box from Renny Cushing, executive director of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights.

The United Nations General Assembly just passed a resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions! The vote was 99 in Favor, 52 Against and 33 Abstentions. Another step toward a world without the death penalty!

Of course, we shouldn't abolish the death penalty because the U.N. says we should or France or Germany or Canada say we should. We should abolish it because it is flawed public policy.

(Posted by David Elliot on NCADP Blog...well worth reading often!

Coming--more items from or related to issues, people active in the Journey of Hope and their exeriences.

Thanks for tuning in--tell others about this blog, will you? Send them the url.

No comments: