The Pope entrusted his intentions to the World Prayer Network. One intention per month, throughout the year. April is the month dedicated to prayer “For a Culture of Nonviolence.”
In all Catholic churches, during Masses, the following will be prayed: “Let us pray for a greater spread of a culture of nonviolence, which passes through an ever-decreasing recourse to arms, both on the part of states and citizens.”
Pope Francis correctly spells “nonviolence,” a unique word as established by Aldo Capitini to translate well into Italian Gandhi’s “satyagraha,” the force that is inherent in Truth.
Nonviolence, then, to use Francis’ own words, [is considered] as the “style of a politics for peace.”
Now the Pontiff hopes that the culture of nonviolence (historically pioneered and theorized by L. Tolstoy, M.K. Gandhi, K.A. Ghaffar Khan, M.L. King, and in the Catholic tradition by Jesus, Francis of Assisi, and then in modern times by John XXIII and Mother Teresa of Calcutta) will spread more and more, and for this reason he has established the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development, to promote peace in all spheres of public and social existence.
But the culture of nonviolence, in order to find space, must counter the culture of violence, weapons, and war.
It is a challenging program, aiming directly at the reduction of armaments, thus of defense expenditures, both collective and personal.
Fewer weapons for armies, fewer weapons in homes.
That would already be a good step forward: a realistic political goal, not an irenic utopia.
The words the Pope used in the video accompanying the prayer intention on Nonviolence are well thought out:
“every war, every armed confrontation, always ends in defeat for everyone; even in cases of self-defense, the goal is peace. A lasting peace can only be peace without weapons.”
To understand the full and deep meaning of the Pope’s prayer choices, one must also scroll through the other intentions, month by month, and a mosaic emerges that gives Francis’s idea of nonviolence well. Throughout the year we pray for educators for fraternity instead of competition, for victims of abuse, for the abolition of torture, for the marginalized, and for the inclusion of people with disabilities.
The Pope reserves the month of November for prayer for himself, to be helped in his mission.
Moving from the sacred to the profane, the coincidence that exactly 50 years ago another pacifist, the secular leader chose the month of April to launch his nonviolent message is significant.
It was April 1, 1973, when John Lennon, at a packed press conference in New York, announced the birth of a conceptual country, Nutopia: a state with no land, no borders, no passports, no army, only people, based solely on cosmic laws.
The flag of Nutopia is a white handkerchief, and the anthem is a silent track with 5 seconds of silence.
Lennon, as its ambassador, asked for diplomatic immunity and recognition at the United Nations of the country of Nutopia and its people, formed by all those who want to be part of it.
There is a cultural and spiritual thread that links the idea of Nutopia to the World Prayer Network: the spread of the culture of nonviolence, from John Lennon to Pope Francis, today involves believers and atheists, religious and secular. For Gandhi, prayer is a force for nonviolent action: “I believe that silent prayer is often a more powerful force than any act. Prayer is like any other action, it bears fruit whether we realize it or not, and the fruit of sincere prayer is far more powerful than so-called action. Properly understood and applied, prayer is the most powerful instrument of action.”
The ways of nonviolence are endless.
Mao Valpiana , President of the Nonviolent Movement