In England and Wales we celebrate Peace Sunday on the third Sunday of January. Resources for parishes, young people and schools are provided by Pax Christi – part of the international Catholic movement for Peace.
The day provides us with an opportunity to build on the global World Day of Peace that is celebrated on New Year’s Day each year and is accompanied by a message from Pope Francis.
Pax Christi’s National President is the Vice President of the Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool.
Promoting the theme, ‘A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace’, Archbishop McMahon wrote to parishes to encourage them to support the work of Pax Christi and to raise up the Gospel message of peace:
“The Christian message of peace, through reconciliation, justice and nonviolence, can offer hope and direction in these times. I invite you to seriously consider facilitating a collection for, or making a donation to, the work of Pax Christi at this time as a way to make a practical contribution to continuing the work of peace.”
Pax Christi has based its Peace Sunday materials on the message from Pope Francis to mark the 54th annual World Day of Peace. In it, Pope Francis highlights Catholic Social Teaching as an expression of Christian care for all people – particularly in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In presenting loving care as a path to peace, the Pope highlights the connection between social injustice and violent conflict, and the critical role of women at all levels of peacebuilding.
He calls on leaders in all sectors – the state, business, science and academics, international organisations, and media – to adopt the principles of Catholic Social Teaching: the dignity and rights of each person, the common good, solidarity, peacebuilding, and the protection of creation.
He explains that these can act “as a ‘compass’, capable of pointing out a common direction, and ensuring ‘a more humane future.'”
Where there is violence, Pope Francis calls on peacemakers to promote healing and renewed encounter.
Many dioceses are actively promoting Peace Sunday on their websites and in their parishes. Some are being particularly creative. Our Lady and St Edmund of Abingdon in Portsmouth Diocese, for example, will display a banner on the lectern this weekend with the word ‘Peace’ in several languages, in full view of the online congregation as well as those in the church.
Pax Christi’s promotion of the World Peace Day message annually goes alongside its year-round work of challenging military spending, promoting peace education at all levels, and campaigning to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
Resources for Peace Sunday can be found on Pax Christi’s website: paxchristi.org.uk/peace-sunday-2021
These include a liturgy booklet, a podcast by Fr Rob Esdaile, and an article for parish newsletters.
On 16 January, Pax Christi offers a national online service at 6pm to explore how the Pope’s message calls us to be peacemakers and respond to the call to live non-violently.
With thanks to Ellen Teague.