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Following is a message from Pope Francis relating to the celebration of the World Day of Peace on January 1, 2014


[1] In this, my first Message for the World Day of Peace, I wish to offer to everyone, individuals and peoples, my best wishes for a life filled with joy and hope. In the heart of every man and woman is the desire for a full life, including that irrepressible longing for fraternity which draws us to fellowship with others and enables us to see them not as enemies or rivals, but as brothers and sisters to be accepted and embraced.

Fraternity is an essential human quality, for we are relational beings. A lively awareness of our relatedness helps us to look upon and to treat each person as a true sister or brother; without fraternity it is impossible to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace.

We should remember that fraternity is generally first learned in the family, thanks above all to the responsible and complementary roles of each of its members, particularly the father and the mother. The family is the wellspring of all fraternity, and as such it is the foundation and the first pathway to peace, since, by its vocation, it is meant to spread its love to the world around it.

The ever-increasing number of interconnections and communications in today’s world makes us powerfully aware of the unity and common destiny of the nations. In the dynamics of history, and in the diversity of ethnic groups, societies and cultures, we see the seeds of a vocation to form a community composed of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another. But this vocation is still frequently denied and ignored in a world marked by a “globalization of indifference” which makes us slowly inured to the suffering of others and closed in on ourselves.

In many parts of the world, there seems to be no end to grave offences against fundamental human rights, especially the right to life and the right to religious freedom. The tragic phenomenon of human trafficking, in which the unscrupulous prey on the lives and the desperation of others, is but one unsettling example of this. Alongside overt armed conflicts are the less visible but no less cruel wars fought in the economic and financial sectors with means which are equally destructive of lives, families and businesses.

Globalization, as Benedict XVI pointed out, makes us neighbours, but does not make us brothers. The many situations of inequality, poverty and injustice, are signs not only of a profound lack of fraternity, but also of the absence of a culture of solidarity. New ideologies, characterized by rampant individualism, egocentrism and materialistic consumerism, weaken social bonds, fuelling that “throw away” mentality which leads to contempt for, and the abandonment of, the weakest and those considered “useless”. In this way human coexistence increasingly tends to resemble a mere do ut des which is both pragmatic and selfish.

At the same time, it appears clear that contemporary ethical systems remain incapable of producing authentic bonds of fraternity, since a fraternity devoid of reference to a common Father as its ultimate foundation is unable to endure.

[2] True brotherhood among people presupposes and demands a transcendent Fatherhood. Based on the recognition of this fatherhood, human fraternity is consolidated: each person becomes a “neighbor” who cares for others.
“Where is your brother?” (Gen 4:9)

2. To understand more fully this human vocation to fraternity, to recognize more clearly the obstacles standing in the way of its realization and to identify ways of overcoming them, it is of primary importance to let oneself be led by knowledge of God’s plan, which is presented in an eminent way in sacred Scripture.

According to the biblical account of creation, all people are descended from common parents, Adam and Eve, the couple created by God in his image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26), to whom Cain and Abel were born. In the story of this first family, we see the origins of society and the evolution of relations between individuals and peoples.

Abel is a shepherd, Cain is a farmer. Their profound identity and their vocation is to be brothers, albeit in the diversity of their activity and culture, their way of relating to God and to creation. Cain’s murder of Abel bears tragic witness to his radical rejection of their vocation to be brothers.

Their story (cf. Gen 4:1-16) brings out the difficult task to which all men and women are called, to live as one, each taking care of the other. Cain, incapable of accepting God’s preference for Abel who had offered him the best of his flock – “The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering; but for Cain and his offering he had no regard” (Gen 4:4-5) – killed Abel out of jealousy. In this way, he refused to regard Abel as a brother, to relate to him rightly, to live in the presence of God by assuming his responsibility to care for and to protect others.

By asking him “Where is your brother?”, God holds Cain accountable for what he has done. He answers: “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9). Then, the Book of Genesis tells us, “Cain went away from the presence of the Lord” (4:16).

We need to ask ourselves what were the real reasons which led Cain to disregard the bond of fraternity and, at the same time, the bond of reciprocity and fellowship which joined him to his brother Abel. God himself condemns and reproves Cain’s collusion with evil: “sin is crouching at your door” (Gen 4:7). But Cain refuses to turn against evil and decides instead to raise his “hand against his brother Abel” (Gen 4:8), thus scorning God’s plan. In this way, he thwarts his primordial calling to be a child of God and to live in fraternity.

The story of Cain and Abel teaches that we have an inherent calling to fraternity, but also the tragic capacity to betray that calling. This is witnessed by our daily acts of selfishness, which are at the root of so many wars and so much injustice: many men and women die at the hands of their brothers and sisters who are incapable of seeing themselves as such, that is, as beings made for reciprocity, for communion and self-giving.

“And you will all be brothers” (Mt 23:8)

3. The question naturally arises: Can the men and women of this world ever fully respond to the longing for fraternity placed within them by God the Father? Will they ever manage by their power alone to overcome indifference, egoism and hatred, and to accept the legitimate differences typical of brothers and sisters?
By paraphrasing his words, we can summarize the answer given by the Lord Jesus: “For you have only one Father, who is God, and you are all brothers and sisters” (cf. Mt 23:8-9).

The basis of fraternity is found in God’s fatherhood. We are not speaking of a generic fatherhood, indistinct and historically ineffectual, but rather of the specific and extraordinarily concrete personal love of God for each man and woman (cf. Mt 6:25-30). It is a fatherhood, then, which effectively generates fraternity, because the love of God, once welcomed, becomes the most formidable means of transforming our lives and relationships with others, opening us to solidarity and to genuine sharing.

In a particular way, human fraternity is regenerated in and by Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection. The Cross is the definitive foundational locus of that fraternity which human beings are not capable of generating themselves. Jesus Christ, who assumed human nature in order to redeem it, loving the Father unto death on the Cross (cf. Phil 2:8), has through his resurrection made of us a new humanity, in full communion with the will of God, with his plan, which includes the full realization of our vocation to fraternity.

From the beginning, Jesus takes up the plan of the Father, acknowledging its primacy over all else. But Christ, with his abandonment to death for love of the Father, becomes the definitive and new principle of us all; we are called to regard ourselves in him as brothers and  sisters, inasmuch as we are children of the same Father. He himself is the Covenant; in his person we are reconciled with God and with one another as brothers and sisters.

Jesus’ death on the Cross also brings an end to the separation between peoples, between the people of the Covenant and the people of the Gentiles, who were bereft of hope until that moment, since they were not party to the pacts of the Promise. As we read in the Letter to the Ephesians, Jesus Christ is the one who reconciles all people in himself. He is peace, for he made one people out of the two, breaking down the wall of separation which divided them, that is, the hostility between them. He created in himself one people, one new man, one new humanity (cf. 2:14-16).

All who accept the life of Christ and live in him acknowledge God as Father and give themselves completely to him, loving him above all things. The reconciled person sees in God the Father of all, and, as a consequence, is spurred on to live a life of fraternity open to all. In Christ, the other is welcomed and loved as a son or daughter of God, as a brother or sister, not as a stranger, much less as a rival or even an enemy.

In God’s family, where all are sons and daughters of the same Father, and, because they are grafted to Christ, sons and daughters in the Son, there are no “disposable lives”. All men and women enjoy an equal and inviolable dignity. All are loved by God. All have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, who died on the Cross and rose for all. This is the reason why no one can remain indifferent before the lot of our brothers and sisters.

Fraternity, the foundation and pathway to peace
4. This being said, it is easy to realize that fraternity is the foundation and pathway of peace. The social encyclicals written by my predecessors can be very helpful in this regard. It would be sufficient to draw on the definitions of peace found in the encyclicals Populorum Progressio by Pope Paul VI and Sollicitudo Rei Socialis by John Paul II. From the first we learn that the integral development of peoples is the new name of peace. From the second, we conclude that peace is an opus solidaritatis.

Paul VI stated that not only individuals but nations too must encounter one another in a spirit of fraternity. As he says: “In this mutual understanding and friendship, in this sacred communion, we must also… work together to build the common future of the human race”.

In the first place, this duty falls to those who are most privileged. Their obligations are rooted in human and supernatural fraternity and are manifested in three ways: the duty of solidarity, which requires the richer nations to assist the less developed; the duty of social justice, which requires the realignment of relationships between stronger and weaker peoples in terms of greater fairness; and the duty of universal charity, which entails the promotion of a more humane world for all, a world in which each has something to give and to receive, without the progress of the one constituting an obstacle to the development of the other.

If, then, we consider peace as opus solidaritatis, we cannot fail to acknowledge that fraternity is its principal foundation. Peace, John Paul II affirmed, is an indivisible good. Either it is the good of all or it is the good of none. It can be truly attained and enjoyed, as the highest quality of life and a more human and sustainable development, only if all are guided by solidarity as “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good”.

This means not being guided by a “desire for profit” or a “thirst for power”. What is needed is the willingness to “lose ourselves” for the sake of others rather than exploiting them, and to “serve them” instead of oppressing them for our own advantage. “The ‘other’ – whether a person, people or nation – [is to be seen] not just as some kind of instrument, with a work capacity and physical strength to be exploited at low cost and then discarded when no longer useful, but as our ‘neighbour’, a ‘helper’”.

Christian solidarity presumes that our neighbour is loved not only as “a human being with his or her own rights and a fundamental equality with everyone else, but as the living image of God the Father, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and placed under the permanent action of the Holy Spirit”, as another brother or sister. As John Paul II noted: “At that point, awareness of the common fatherhood of God, of the brotherhood of all in Christ – ‘children in the Son’ – and of the presence and life-giving action of the Holy Spirit, will bring to our vision of the world a new criterion for interpreting it”, for changing it.

Fraternity, a prerequisite for fighting poverty
5. In his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, my predecessor reminded the world how the lack of fraternity between peoples and men and women is a significant cause of poverty.[11] In many societies, we are experiencing a profound poverty of relationships as a result of the lack of solid family and community relationships. We are concerned by the various types of hardship, marginalization, isolation and various forms of pathological dependencies which we see increasing. This kind of poverty can be overcome only through the rediscovery and valuing of fraternal relationships in the heart of families and communities, through the sharing of joys and sorrows, of the hardships and triumphs that are a part of human life.

Moreover, if on the one hand we are seeing a reduction in absolute poverty, on the other hand we cannot fail to recognize that there is a serious rise in relative poverty, that is, instances of inequality between people and groups who live together in particular regions or in a determined historical-cultural context. In this sense, effective policies are needed to promote the principle of fraternity, securing for people – who are equal in dignity and in fundamental rights – access to capital, services, educational resources, healthcare and technology so that every person has the opportunity to express and realize his or her life project and can develop fully as a person.

One also sees the need for policies which can lighten an excessive imbalance between incomes. We must not forget the Church’s teaching on the so-called social mortgage, which holds that although it is lawful, as Saint Thomas Aquinas says, and indeed necessary “that people have ownership of goods”, insofar as their use is concerned, “they possess them as not just their own, but common to others as well, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as themselves”.

Finally, there is yet another form of promoting fraternity – and thus defeating poverty – which must be at the basis of all the others. It is the detachment of those who choose to live a sober and essential lifestyle, of those who, by sharing their own wealth, thus manage to experience fraternal communion with others. This is fundamental for following Jesus Christ and being truly Christian. It is not only the case of consecrated persons who profess the vow of poverty, but also of the many families and responsible citizens who firmly believe that it is their fraternal relationship with their neighbours which constitutes their most precious good.

The rediscovery of fraternity in the economy
6. The grave financial and economic crises of the present time – which find their origin in the progressive distancing of man from God and from his neighbour, in the greedy pursuit of material goods on the one hand, and in the impoverishment of interpersonal and community relations on the other – have pushed man to seek satisfaction, happiness and security in consumption and earnings out of all proportion to the principles of a sound economy.

In 1979 John Paul II had called attention to “a real perceptible danger that, while man’s dominion over the world of things is making enormous advances, he should lose the essential threads of his dominion and in various ways let his humanity be subjected to the world and become himself something subject to manipulation in many ways – even if the manipulation is often not perceptible directly – through the whole of the organization of community life, through the production system and through pressure from the means of social communication.”

The succession of economic crises should lead to a timely rethinking of our models of economic development and to a change in lifestyles. Today’s crisis, even with its serious implications for people’s lives, can also provide us with a fruitful opportunity to rediscover the virtues of prudence, temperance, justice and strength. These virtues can help us to overcome difficult moments and to recover the fraternal bonds which join us one to another, with deep confidence that human beings need and are capable of something greater than maximizing their individual interest. Above all, these virtues are necessary for building and preserving a society in accord with human dignity.

Fraternity extinguishes war
7. In the past year, many of our brothers and sisters have continued to endure the destructive experience of war, which constitutes a grave and deep wound inflicted on fraternity.

Many conflicts are taking place amid general indifference. To all those who live in lands where weapons impose terror and destruction, I assure you of my personal closeness and that of the whole Church, whose mission is to bring Christ’s love to the defenceless victims of forgotten wars through her prayers for peace, her service to the wounded, the starving, refugees, the displaced and all those who live in fear. The Church also speaks out in order to make leaders hear the cry of pain of the suffering and to put an end to every form of hostility, abuse and the violation of fundamental human rights.

For this reason, I appeal forcefully to all those who sow violence and death by force of arms: in the person you today see simply as an enemy to be beaten, discover rather your brother or sister, and hold back your hand! Give up the way of arms and go out to meet the other in dialogue, pardon and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust, and hope around you! “From this standpoint, it is clear that, for the world’s peoples, armed conflicts are always a deliberate negation of international harmony, and create profound divisions and deep wounds which require many years to heal. Wars are a concrete refusal to pursue the great economic and social goals that the international community has set itself”.

Nevertheless, as long as so great a quantity of arms are in circulation as at present, new pretexts can always be found for initiating hostilities. For this reason, I make my own the appeal of my predecessors for the non-proliferation of arms and for disarmament of all parties, beginning with nuclear and chemical weapons disarmament.

We cannot however fail to observe that international agreements and national laws – while necessary and greatly to be desired – are not of themselves sufficient to protect humanity from the risk of armed conflict. A conversion of hearts is needed which would permit everyone to recognize in the other a brother or sister to care for, and to work together with, in building a fulfilling life for all. This is the spirit which inspires many initiatives of civil society, including religious organizations, to promote peace. I express my hope that the daily commitment of all will continue to bear fruit and that there will be an effective application in international law of the right to peace, as a fundamental human right and a necessary prerequisite for every other right.

Corruption and organized crime threaten fraternity
8. The horizon of fraternity also has to do with the need for fulfilment of every man and woman. People’s legitimate ambitions, especially in the case of the young, should not be thwarted or offended, nor should people be robbed of their hope of realizing them. Nevertheless, ambition must not be confused with the abuse of power. On the contrary, people should compete with one another in mutual esteem (cf. Rm 12:10). In disagreements, which are also an unavoidable part of life, we should always remember that we are brothers and sisters, and therefore teach others and teach ourselves not to consider our neighbour as an enemy or as an adversary to be eliminated.

Fraternity generates social peace because it creates a balance between freedom and justice, between personal responsibility and solidarity, between the good of individuals and the common good. And so a political community must act in a transparent and responsible way to favour all this. Citizens must feel themselves represented by the public authorities in respect for their freedom. Yet frequently a wedge is driven between citizens and institutions by partisan interests which disfigure that relationship, fostering the creation of an enduring climate of conflict.

An authentic spirit of fraternity overcomes the individual selfishness which conflicts with people’s ability to live in freedom and in harmony among themselves. Such selfishness develops socially – whether it is in the many forms of corruption, so widespread today, or in the formation of criminal organizations, from small groups to those organized on a global scale. These groups tear down legality and justice, striking at the very heart of the dignity of the person. These organizations gravely offend God, they hurt others and they harm creation, all the more so when they have religious overtones.

I also think of the heartbreaking drama of drug abuse, which reaps profits in contempt of the moral and civil laws. I think of the devastation of natural resources and ongoing pollution, and the tragedy of the exploitation of labour. I think too of illicit money trafficking and financial speculation, which often prove both predatory and harmful for entire economic and social systems, exposing millions of men and women to poverty.

I think of prostitution, which every day reaps innocent victims, especially the young, robbing them of their future. I think of the abomination of human trafficking, crimes and abuses against minors, the horror of slavery still present in many parts of the world; the frequently overlooked tragedy of migrants, who are often victims of disgraceful and illegal manipulation.

As John XXIII wrote: “There is nothing human about a society based on relationships of power. Far from encouraging, as it should, the attainment of people’s growth and perfection, it proves oppressive and restrictive of their freedom”. Yet human beings can experience conversion; they must never despair of being able to change their lives. I wish this to be a message of hope and confidence for all, even for those who have committed brutal crimes, for God does not wish the death of the sinner, but that he converts and lives (cf. Ez 18:23).

In the broad context of human social relations, when we look to crime and punishment, we cannot help but think of the inhumane conditions in so many prisons, where those in custody are often reduced to a subhuman status in violation of their human dignity and stunted in their hope and desire for rehabilitation. The Church does much in these environments, mostly in silence. I exhort and I encourage everyone to do more, in the hope that the efforts being made in this area by so many courageous men and women will be increasingly supported, fairly and honestly, by the civil authorities as well.

Fraternity helps to preserve and cultivate nature
9. The human family has received from the Creator a common gift: nature. The Christian view of creation includes a positive judgement about the legitimacy of interventions on nature if these are meant to be beneficial and are performed responsibly, that is to say, by acknowledging the “grammar” inscribed in nature and by wisely using resources for the benefit of all, with respect for the beauty, finality and usefulness of every living being and its place in the ecosystem. Nature, in a word, is at our disposition and we are called to exercise a responsible stewardship over it.

Yet so often we are driven by greed and by the arrogance of dominion, possession, manipulation and exploitation; we do not preserve nature; nor do we respect it or consider it a gracious gift which we must care for and set at the service of our brothers and sisters, including future generations.

In a particular way, the agricultural sector is the primary productive sector with the crucial vocation of cultivating and protecting natural resources in order to feed humanity. In this regard the continuing disgrace of hunger in the world moves me to share with you the question: How are we using the earth’s resources? Contemporary societies should reflect on the hierarchy of priorities to which production is directed.

It is a truly pressing duty to use the earth’s resources in such a way that all may be free from hunger. Initiatives and possible solutions are many, and are not limited to an increase in production. It is well known that present production is sufficient, and yet millions of persons continue to suffer and die from hunger, and this is a real scandal. We need, then, to find ways by which all may benefit from the fruits of the earth, not only to avoid the widening gap between those who have more and those who must be content with the crumbs, but above all because it is a question of justice, equality and respect for every human being.

In this regard I would like to remind everyone of that necessary universal destination of all goods which is one of the fundamental principles of the Church’s social teaching. Respect for this principle is the essential condition for facilitating an effective and fair access to those essential and primary goods which every person needs and to which he or she has a right.

10. Fraternity needs to be discovered, loved, experienced, proclaimed and witnessed to. But only love, bestowed as a gift from God, enables us to accept and fully experience fraternity.

The necessary realism proper to politics and economy cannot be reduced to mere technical know-how bereft of ideals and unconcerned with the transcendent dimension of man. When this openness to God is lacking, every human activity is impoverished and persons are reduced to objects that can be exploited. Only when politics and the economy are open to moving within the wide space ensured by the One who loves each man and each woman, will they achieve an ordering based on a genuine spirit of fraternal charity and become effective instruments of integral human development and peace.

We Christians believe that in the Church we are all members of a single body, all mutually necessary, because each has been given a grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ, for the common good (cf. Eph 4:7,25; 1 Cor 12:7). Christ has come to the world so as to bring us divine grace, that is, the possibility of sharing in his life. This entails weaving a fabric of fraternal relationships marked by reciprocity, forgiveness and complete self-giving, according to the breadth and the depth of the love of God offered to humanity in the One who, crucified and risen, draws all to himself: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34-35).

This is the good news that demands from each one a step forward, a perennial exercise of empathy, of listening to the suffering and the hopes of others, even those furthest away from me, and walking the demanding path of that love which knows how to give and spend itself freely for the good of all our brothers and sisters.

Christ embraces all of humanity and wishes no one to be lost. “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:17). He does it without oppressing or constraining anyone to open to him the doors of heart and mind. “Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves” – Jesus Christ says – “I am among you as one who serves” (Lk 22:26-27).

Every activity therefore must be distinguished by an attitude of service to persons, especially those furthest away and less known. Service is the soul of that fraternity that builds up peace.

May Mary, the Mother of Jesus, help us to understand and live every day the fraternity that springs up from the heart of her Son, so as to bring peace to each person on this our beloved earth.

If you are looking for not only a “good read,” but an invigorating and inspiring take on the spiritual/political/economic issues of our day, do not miss the just-released book from my wonderful friend Matthew Fox, Letters to Pope Francis.

The Rev. Mr. Fox (he was once a Catholic priest, but was expelled from the church and became an Episcopalian priest) suggests that the Pope should go on an international tour with the Dalai Lama.  Below is what he says of the tour, followed by a remarkably detailed  and wonderfully informative look where the Pontiff stands.

— Neale Donald Walsch

Together Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama could speak to the obvious and real moral issues of our day:  Economic inequality based on a system of avarice not only at the top but in the consumer bottom and middle; gender injustice (something the Catholic Church has to address internally as well); ecological destruction; unemployment, especially among the young; the pressing need for religious and spiritual interfaith or deep ecumenism; the necessary and desired marriage of science and spirituality (as opposed to silly fundamentalism either by religion or by science).

The young could be deeply inspired by such a road show and I have no doubt that the two principals would themselves learn from one another.  This pope has displayed a refreshing humility and eagerness to learn from other religious leaders as in his book of dialogs with Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Argentina (who is also a PhD in science).  It is a fine book and they got together over a two year period to produce it.

Teachings of Pope Francis that stand out include some of the following.

1.  A walking of his talk of simpler lifestyle.  Pope Francis was well known in Argentina for taking public transportation to work and refusing any limousine­like service which so many prelates take for granted.  He has done the same in his new position as pope where he chooses not to live in the papal apartments but in a far more modest guest house or hotel in the Vatican.  He drives a Ford Focus in Vatican city.  Might he give over the apartments to Rome’s homeless?  He has also drawn some press recently for sneaking out at night from the Vatican in the simple priestly garb of black suit and color and hanging out with homeless in the streets of Rome.  One senses he is trying to walk the talk and follow his own preaching about simplification.  And he is putting pressure on other prelates to do the same.

2.  As for his talk, he tends to mince no words when speaking of the divergence of wealth and poverty today.  He speaks to globalization this way: “The globalization that makes everything uniform is essentially imperialist…it is not human.  In the end it is a way to enslave the nations.” (Fox, 24)[1]  Is globalization enslaving the nations?  Serious words worthy of a serious discussion.

3.  He says: “Christianity condemns both Communism and wild capitalism with the same vigor” and one needs to reject the “wild economic liberalism we see today” and “seek equal opportunities and rights and strive for social benefits, dignified retirement, vacation time, rest, and freedom of unions.”

4.  He praises St Francis because “he brought to Christianity an idea of poverty against the luxury, pride, vanity of the civil and ecclesiastical powers of the time” and for this reason “he changed history.”

5.  He takes on the neocon preoccupation with “world terrorism” and the fear such language arouses when he declares that “human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities.”  How important is that?  To equate economic structures with terrorism?  Yes, Wall Street terrorizes.  Ask any Main Street citizen.

6.  He denounces the “flight of money to foreign countries” as a sin because it dishonors “the people that worked to generate” that wealth.  He also condemns those who hide their wealth in off­shore accounts to avoid paying taxes that are so important for the common good.

7.  Pope Francis has said:  “The option for the poor comes from the first centuries of Christianity.  It is the Gospel itself.”  And he remarked that were he to preach sermons from the first fathers of the church on the needs of the poor he would be called a “Maoist” or “Trotskyte.”  (119)

8.  He critiques clericalism as a “distortion of religion” and says priests should not declare “I am the boss here” but listen to the community.  “The Catholic Church is the entire people of God” he declares a la Vatican II—not words the previous two popes were at all home with.  (85)

9.  “Human rights are violated by…unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities.” (71)

10.  On Holy Thursday Pope Francis washed the feet of young people in jail including the feet of some women, one of them being Muslim.  It is a custom to do this ritual after the memory of Jesus who also did it—but the Catholic right wing is up in arms about his daring to wash women’s feet and those of a Muslim woman!

11.  He endorses the concept of small communities over what he calls “hierarchical mega­institutions” because these better “nurture their own spirituality” and after all the “origin of Christianity was ‘parochial and later organized into small communities.” (94)

12.  “Repair my church in ruins” he said on taking over the office of the papacy.  He seems to get it.  The schismatic church of John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) has left a Catholicism which the young have abandoned en masse.

They left a church in ruins run by fascist leaning opus dei cardinals and bishops all over the world.  One Catholic paper in India declared “there is a civil war in the church.”  I for one do not believe this pope or any pope could return Catholicism to its previous state—or should. As I concluded in my book, “The Pope’s War,” I see the destruction of the Catholic Church as we know it the work of the Holy Spirit.  It is time to simplify the message and the presence of those who follow a Christ path.

It is time to travel with backpacks on our backs, not basilicas.  The pope’s work will not bring Catholics “back to the church” but hopefully it will inspire Christians and non­Christians alike to consider the basic teachings of Jesus around compassion and justice and start acting accordingly.

13.  Says Pope Francis: “The worship of the golden calf of hold has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any human goal.”  We need, he says, a “balanced social order that is more humane” and that resits consumerism.  “Money has to serve and not rule.”  It is a “savage capitalism” that teaches “the logic of profit at any cost” and exploitation of people.

14.  Says the pope: “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”  Structures can “give us a false sense of security” and “rules makes us harsh judges…while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us, “give them something to eat.’”  He wants to decentralize the church for “excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the church’s life and her missionary outreach.”

15.  Unfettered capitalism is a “new tyranny”  “Today we are living in an unjust international system in which ‘King Money’ is at the center.”  This “throwaway culture discards young people as well as its older people…..A whole generation of young people does not have the dignity that is brought by work.”  A “diminishing of the joy of life” is the result of such idolatry (125f) and interestingly he chose a parallel phrase, the “Joy of the Gospel” for the title of his most recentpronouncement.

In his recent document entitled “The Joy of the Gospel” Pope Francis speaks bluntly, as all the prophet do. He says No—as all the prophets do.  He denounces “trickle­down” economics as “never having been confirmed by the facts” and being built on a “crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power….Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.” [2]

Following are some of his No’s presented in his own words:

1.  “No to an economy of exclusion….An economy of exclusion and inequality kills….Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”

2.  “No to the new idolatry of money….While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority form the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few…..Self­serving tax evasion has] taken on worldwide  dimensions.  The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits….Whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a defied market, which becomes the only rule.”

3.  “No to a financial system which rules rather than serves.  Ethics is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative.  It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person….

Money must serve, not rule!  The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor.  I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings.

4.  “No to the inequality which spawns violence.  [Violence happens not]simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded form the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root.  Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear…..Evil crystallized in unjust social structures…cannot be the basis of hope for a better future.

Pope Francis speaks out against an “education that would tranquilize the poor, making them tame and harmless.”  And he defines injustice as “evil.”  He has invited liberation theologian Gustavo Gutierrez to the Vatican and the word is out that he will canonize Archbishop Romero.

A different kind of papacy?  Surely from the past two popes; much more like Pope John XXIII. Does that mean we go back to papalolatry?  Absolutely not. But it does mean that it is good that a person in the public eye is keeping his sights on values that matter and speaking up for the kind of people of conscience who read and act on the values that Tikkun represents.

When it comes to issues of women, Pope Francis has much to learn (including how women were leaders in the early church).  But I think he is capable of learning.

On homosexuality, he has uttered a telling line, “Who am I to judge?” that certainly distances him from the previous two popes.  On issues of abortion, at least he has spoken to the need to care about the women involved.

Pope Francis is not perfect—none of us is—but he is an ally to all those seeking a world of justice and therefore peace.


[1] Subsequent citations are from Matthew Fox, Letters to Pope Francis (South Orange, NY: LevelFiveMedia, 2013

[2] Aaron Blake, “Pope Francis denounces ‘trickle­down’ economics, The Washington Post, Nov. 26, 2013.


The website Independent Catholic News recently posted this summary of remarks by Pope Francis on the subject of death:

During his general audience in a freezing cold St Peter’s Square today, Pope Francis spoke about the way our Christian faith helps us understand death and brings us the hope of Resurrection. If we remain close to God in our lives, especially in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable, he said, “we need not fear death but rather welcome it as the door to heaven and to the joy of eternal life.”

A summary of Pope Francis’ words, read for English-speaking pilgrims, follows below.

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the Creed, we now reflect on “the resurrection of the body”. Christian faith illumines the mystery of death and brings the hope of the resurrection.

Death challenges all of us: apart from belief in God and a vision of life as something greater than earthly existence, death appears as wholly tragic; we misunderstand it, fear and deny it. Yet human beings were made for something greater; we yearn for the infinite, the eternal. Christ’s resurrection not only offers us the certainty of life beyond death, it also shows us the true meaning of death.

We die as we live: if our lives were lived in loving union with God, we will be able to abandon ourselves serenely and confidently into his hands at the moment of our death. Our Lord frequently tells us to be watchful, knowing that our life in this world is a preparation for the life to come. If we remain close to him, especially through charity to the poor and solidarity with those in need, we need not fear death, but rather welcome it as the door to heaven and to the joy of eternal life.

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including those from England, the Philippines and the United States. Upon you and your families I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

Source: Vatican Radio

The process is gradual, insidious, lethal. It starts with financial stress in various forms, and then, according to growing evidence, leads to health problems and shorter lives.

Financial stress is brought upon us by the profit motive of capitalism, which offers little incentive to feed hungry children, to treat the sick, to secure us in retirement, to provide job opportunities for middle-class Americans. Some of the steps in the process are becoming more and more familiar to us.

1. Giving Half of Your 401(k) to the Banks

The Frontline documentary The Retirement Gamble reported that a 401(k) fund earning 7 percent a year with 2 percent in fees would lose up to 60 percent of the value of an equivalent non-fee fund.

A 2 percent fee doesn’t seem like much, but the documentary’s claim was close to the truth. Based on the 6 percent historical stock market return, an employee investing $1,000 a year for 30 years in a non-fee fund and then holding the accumulated sum for another 20 years would end up with $269,000. Imposing a 2 percent annual fee would reduce the final total to $127,000, a 53 percent loss. Imposing a 1.3 percent fee, which according to the documentary is the industry average, would reduce the final total to $165,000, a 39 percent loss.

The financial industry is taking this money from more of us every year. The number of private sector workers depending on a 401(k) instead of a company pension has increased from 12 percent to 68 percent since 1983.

2. Watching 24,000,000 Children Go Hungry to Avoid Inconveniencing 20 Rich Individuals

It’s an unthinkable trade-off, but it’s happening. Although the 2013 SNAP (food stamp) budget of $78 billion is less than the 2012 investment earnings of 20 wealthy Americans, SNAP is being cut while not a penny extra is taken from the multi-billionaires.

The children, who make up nearly half of the 48 million recipients, will now get $1.40 for a meal instead of $1.50.

3. Listening to the “Job Creators” Mock the Truth

Casino billionaire Steve Wynn: “Guys like me are job creators and we don’t like having a bulls-eye painted on our back.”

Bank CEO John A. Allison IV: “Instead of an attack on the 1 percent, let’s call it an attack on the very productive.”

The reality is that corporate profits have doubled in ten years, and the corporate tax percent has been cut in half, while millions of jobs have been lost. Some of the job-cutting data comes from The NationMarket Watch, and Business Insider.

How did “job creators” Steve Wynn and John A. Allison IV do? The following numbers are taken from their annual 10-K reports, submitted to the SEC:

From Wynn ResortsA doubling or more of profits, a reduction in employees

—- 2012 Income $728,699,000  Employees 16,000—- 2011 Income $825,113,000  Employees 16,400—- 2010 Income $316,596,000  Employees 16,405—- 2009 Income $ 39,107,000   Employees 18,900

From Allison’s bank, BB&TA doubling or more of profits, little difference in employees

—- 2012 Income $2,028,000,000  Employees 34,000—- 2011 Income $1,332,000,000  Employees 31,800—- 2010 Income $ 854,000,000    Employees 31,400—- 2009 Income $ 877,000,000    Employees 32,400

4. Feeling the Debilitating Stress

Over 200 recent studies have confirmed a link between financial stress and sickness. In just 20 years America’s ranking among developed countries dropped on nearly every major health measure.

Lack of proper health care is one source of that stress. A Harvard study estimated that nearly 45,000 Americans lost their lives in 2005 due to lack of health insurance.

In addition to its effects on our physical health, financial stress threatens our mental well-being. Stunningly, one out of every five American adults had mental illness in 2011, as reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Another recent study found that unemployment, whether voluntary or involuntary, can significantly impact a person’s mental health. But only one of two Americans needing mental health care can afford treatment.

Grimmer still is the growing suicide rate, also linked to unemployment and declining wealth. The rate has accelerated since the 2008 recession.

The facts show that we were a relatively healthy people until unregulated free-market capitalism began to disrupt our lives. Now, because of its winner-take-all profit motive, we’re literally fighting for our lives.

This article was first published at Nation of Change. The link to the original posting is here.

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher with formal training in language development and cognitive science. He is the founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (,,, and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at  The piece here was published with his permission.

November 22 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and virtually all major TV channels, magazines, and other media outlets are planning specials, documentaries, articles with historical analyses and personal retellings of where people were at the time of assassination.

Also, Oliver Stone’s 1991 Oscar-nominated film JFK challenging the conventional theory that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman and suggesting that there may have been a conspiracy to kill Kennedy will be shown this month in over 250 theaters nationwide.

To put the Kennedy assassination in a historical perspective that is both spiritual and political, we here reprint Peter Gabel’s brilliant article on the subject, “The Spiritual Truth of JFK (As Movie and Reality),” originally published in Tikkun in March/April 1992 in response to the original release of Stone’s film. Gabel’s piece is an example of the kind of historical analysis we are trying to develop in Tikkun—locating the critical event of JFK’s assassination in the context of the repression of our collective spiritual longings for a loving world that characterized the 1950s, and what he calls the “opening up of desire” represented by JFK.

In defending Stone’s film against its critics, Gabel also shows how the conflict between hope and fear, between the desire for an erotic, loving, and caring world and the forces seeking to deny and contain that desire, is central to understanding the meaning of historical events. His analysis also implicitly helps explain why this month there is such an outpouring of memory, pain, longing, and loss in recollecting the assassination fifty years later.

— Rabbi Michael Lerner

The Spiritual Truth of JFK (As Movie and Reality)

Oliver Stone’s JFK is a great movie, but not because it “proves” that John F. Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy. Stone himself has acknowledged that the movie is a myth — a countermyth to the myth produced by the Warren Commission — but a myth that contains what Stone calls a spiritual truth. To understand that spiritual truth, we must look deeply into the psychological and social meaning of the assassination — its meaning for American society at the time that it occurred, and for understanding contemporary American politics and culture.

The spiritual problem that the movie speaks to is an underlying truth about life in American society — the truth that we all live in a social world characterized by feelings of alienation, isolation, and a chronic inability to connect with one another in a life-giving and powerful way. In our political and economic institutions, this alienation is lived out as a feeling of being “underneath” and at an infinite distance from an alien external world that seems to determine our lives from the outside. True democracy would require that we be actively engaged in ongoing processes of social interaction that strengthen our bonds of connectedness to one another, while at the same time allowing us to realize our need for a sense of social meaning and ethical purpose through the active remaking of the no-longer “external” world around us. But we do not yet live in such a world, and the isolation and distance from reality that envelops us is a cause of immense psychological and emotional pain, a social starvation that is in fact analogous to physical hunger and other forms of physical suffering.

One of the main psychosocial mechanisms by which this pain, this collective starvation, is denied is through the creation of an imaginary sense of community. Today this imaginary world is generated through a seemingly endless ritualized deference to the Flag, the Nation, the Family — pseudocommunal icons of public discourse projecting mere images of social connection that actually deny our real experience of isolation and distance, of living in sealed cubicles, passing each other blankly on the streets, while managing to relieve our alienation to some extent by making us feel a part of something. Political and cultural elites — presidents and ad agencies — typically generate these images of pseudocommunity, but we also play a part in creating them because, from the vantage point of our isolated positions — if we have not found some alternative community of meaning — we need them to provide what sense of social connection they can. We have discussed this phenomenon in Tikkun many times before, emphasizing recently, for example, the way David Duke is able to recognize and confirm the pain of white working-class people and thereby help them overcome, in an imaginary way, their sense of isolation in a public world that leaves them feeling invisible.

In the 1950s, the alienated environment that I have been describing took the form of an authoritarian, rigidly anticommunist mentality that coexisted with the fantasized image of a “perfect” America — a puffed-up and patriotic America that had won World War II and was now producing a kitchen-culture of time-saving appliances, allegedly happy families, and technically proficient organizations and “organization men” who dressed the same and looked the same as they marched in step toward the “great big beautiful tomorrow” hailed in General Electric’s advertising jingle of that period. It was a decade of artificial and rigid patriotic unity, sustained in large part by an equally rigid and pathological anticommunism; for communism was the “Other” whose evil we needed to exterminate or at least contain to preserve our illusory sense of connection, meaning, and social purpose. As the sixties were later to make clear, the cultural climate of the fifties was actually a massive denial of the desire for true connection and meaning. But at the time the cultural image-world of the fifties was sternly held in place by a punitive and threatening system of authoritarian male hierarchies, symbolized most graphically by the McCarthy hearings, the House Un-American Activities Committee, and the person of J. Edgar Hoover.

In this context, the election of John F. Kennedy and his three years in office represented what I would call an opening-up of desire. I say this irrespective of his official policies, which are repeatedly criticized by the Left for their initial hawkish character, and irrespective also of the posthumous creation of the Camelot myth, which does exaggerate the magic of that period. The opening-up that I am referring to is a feeling that Kennedy was able to evoke — a feeling of humor, romance, idealism, and youthful energy, and a sense of hope that touched virtually every American alive during that time. It was this feeling — “the rise of a new generation of Americans” — that more than any ideology threatened the system of cultural and erotic control that dominated the fifties and that still dominated the governmental elites of the early sixties — the FBI, the CIA, even elements of Kennedy’s own cabinet and staff. Kennedy’s evocative power spoke to people’s longing for some transcendent community and in so doing, it allowed people to make themselves vulnerable enough to experience both hope and, indirectly, the legacy of pain and isolation that had been essentially sealed from public awareness since the end of the New Deal.

Everyone alive at the time of the assassination knows exactly where they were when Kennedy was shot because, as it is often said, his assassination “traumatized the nation.” But the real trauma, if we move beyond the abstraction of “the nation,” was the sudden, violent loss for millions of people of the part of themselves that had been opened up, or had begun to open up during Kennedy’s presidency. As a sixteen-year-old in boarding school with no interest in politics, I wrote a long note in my diary asking God to help us through the days ahead, even though I didn’t believe in God at the time. And I imagine that you, if you were alive then, no matter how cynical you may have sometimes felt since then about politics or presidents or the “real” Kennedy himself, have a similar memory preciously stored in the region of your being where your longings for a better world still reside.

In this issue, Peter Dale Scott gives an account of the objective consequences of the assassination, of the ways that the nation’s anticommunist elites apparently reversed Kennedy’s beginning efforts to withdraw from Vietnam and perhaps through his relationship with Khrushchev to thaw out the addiction to blind anti-communist rage — an addiction that, as he saw during the Cuban missile crisis, could well have led to a nuclear war. But for these same elites, the mass-psychological consequences of the assassination posed quite a different problem from that of reversing government policy — namely, the need to find a way to reconstitute the image of benign social connection that could reform the imaginary unity of the country on which the legitimacy of government policy depends. In order to contain the desire released by the Kennedy presidency and the sense of loss and sudden disintegration caused by the assassination, government officials had to create a process that would rapidly “prove” — to the satisfaction of people’s emotions — that the assassination and loss were the result of socially innocent causes.

Here we come to the mass-psychological importance of Lee Harvey Oswald and the lone gunman theory of the assassination. As Stone’s movie reminds us in a congeries of rapid-fire, post-assassination images, Oswald was instantly convicted in the media and in mass consciousness even before he was shot by Jack Ruby two days after the assassination. After an elaborate ritualized process producing twenty-six volumes of testimony, the Warren Commission sanctified Oswald’s instant conviction in spite of the extreme implausibility of the magic bullet theory, the apparently contrary evidence of the Zapruder film, and other factual information such as the near impossibility of Oswald’s firing even three bullets (assuming the magic bullet theory to be true) with such accuracy so quickly with a manually cocked rifle. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist, nor do you have to believe any of the evidence marshaled together by conspiracy theorists, to find it odd that Oswald’s guilt was immediately taken for granted within two days of the killing, with no witnesses and no legal proceeding of any kind — and that his guilt was later confidently affirmed by a high-level Commission whose members had to defy their own common sense in order to do so. The whole process might even seem extraordinary considering that we are talking about the assassination of an American president.

But it is not so surprising if you accept the mass-psychological perspective I am outlining here — the perspective that Kennedy and the Kennedy years had elicited a lyricism and a desire for transcendent social connection that contradicted the long-institutionalized forces of emotional repression that preceded them. The great advantage of the lone gunman theory is that it gives a nonsocial account of the assassination. It takes the experience of trauma and loss and momentary social disintegration, isolates the evil source of the experience in one antisocial individual, and leaves the image of society as a whole — the “imaginary community” that I referred to earlier — untarnished and still “good.” From the point of view of those in power, in other words, the lone gunman theory reinstitutes the legitimacy of existing social and political authority as a whole because it silently conveys the idea that our elected officials and the organs of government, among them the CIA and the FBI, share our innocence and continue to express our democratic will. But from a larger psychosocial point of view, the effect was to begin to close up the link between desire and politics that Kennedy had partially elicited, and at the same time to impose a new repression of our painful feelings of isolation and disconnection beneath the facade of our reconstituted but imaginary political unity.

Having said this, I do not want to be understood to be suggesting that there was a conspiracy to set up Oswald in order to achieve this mass-psychological goal. There may well have been a conspiracy to set up Oswald, but no complex theory is required to explain it. And it would be absurd, in my view, to think that the entire media consciously intended to manipulate the American people in the headlong rush to convict Oswald in the press. The point is rather that this headlong rush was something we all — or most of us — participated in because we ourselves, unconsciously, are deeply attached to the status quo, to our legitimating myths of community, and to denying our own alienation and pain. The interest we share with the mainstream media and with government and corporate elites is to maintain, through a kind of unconscious collusion, the alienated structures of power and social identity that protect us from having to risk emerging from our sealed cubicles and allowing our fragile longing for true community to become a public force.

The great achievement of Oliver Stone’s movie is that it uses this traumatic, formative event of the Kennedy assassination — an event full of politically important cultural memory and feeling — to assault the mythological version of American society and to make us experience the forces of repression that shape social reality. The movie may or may not be accurate in its account of what Lyndon Johnson might have known or of the phones in Washington shutting down just before the assassination or of the New Zealand newspaper that mysteriously published Oswald’s photographs before he was arrested. But the movie does give a kinetic and powerful depiction of the real historical forces present at the time of the assassination, forces that were in part released by the challenge to the fanatical anticommunism of the fifties that Kennedy to some extent brought about. Through his crosscutting images of the anti-Castro fringe, the civil-rights movement, high and low New Orleans club life, and elites in corporate and government offices who thought they ran the country, Stone uses all his cinematic and political energy to cut through the civics-class version of history and to bring the viewer into sudden contact with the realities of power and alienation that were present at that time and are present in a different form now.

I say this is the great achievement of the movie because no matter who killed Kennedy, it was the conflict between the opening-up of desire that he represented and the alienated need of the forces around him to shut this desire down that caused his death. This struggle was an important part of the meaning of the 1960s, and it provides the link, which Stone draws openly, between John Kennedy’s death and the deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. There is no way for the forces of good to win the struggle between desire and alienation unless people can break through the gauzy images of everything being fine except the lone nuts, a legitimating ideology that is actually supported by our denial of the pain of our isolation and our collective deference to the system of Authority that we use to keep our legitimating myths in place. Oliver Stone’s JFK brings us face-to-face with social reality by penetrating the compensatory image-world of mass culture, politics, and journalism. And for that reason it is an important effort by someone whose consciousness was shaped by the sixties to transform and shake free the consciousness of the nineties.
Peter Gabel is editor-at-large of Tikkun. His new book, Another Way of Seeing: Essays on Transforming Law, Politics, and Culture (published by Quid Pro Books) is available from Reach and Teach and Amazon. The article reprinted above, “The Spiritual Truth of JFK (As Movie and Reality),” also appears in The Bank Teller and Other Essays on the Politics of Meaning (Acada Books, 2000).

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I’m Bernie Sanders, United States senator from Vermont, and, along with the organization Social Security Works, I started a petition to the United States House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and President Barack Obama, which says:

No grand bargain in exchange for cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits.

Listen—they’re at it again.

Billionaires like the Koch brothers, Pete Peterson, Stanley Druckenmiller, and others are leading the charge to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

If they succeed, millions of senior citizens, working families, disabled veterans, and children will suffer. We must not allow that to happen.

Today, the middle class is disappearing, real unemployment is extremely high, poverty is increasing, and working families throughout the country are struggling to keep their heads above water economically. Meanwhile, the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider and wider and the wealthiest people and the largest corporations are doing phenomenally well.


As Vermont’s senator, I have the honor of serving on the Budget Conference Committee, which will be negotiating a new federal budget over the next few months—and where I am fearful that a deal could be struck to slash Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

As the founder of the Defending Social Security Caucus, I’m asking you to please stand with me, our friends at Social Security Works, and our coalition partners in demanding: “No grand bargain in exchange for cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits.”

Let’s be clear. Despite right-wing rhetoric:

Social Security is not going broke. According to the Social Security Administration, Social Security has a surplus today of $2.8 trillion and can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible person for the next 20 years.

Social Security has not contributed to the deficit. Social Security is funded independently by FICA taxes, which are paid by workers and their employers.

The so-called chained CPI, which recalculates how cost of living adjustments are formulated, is not a “modest tweak.” If the chained CPI went into effect today, a senior aged 65 would receive $658 a year less in Social Security benefits when he/she was 75, and $1,100 a year less at age 85. Further, the average disabled veteran would lose tens of thousands of dollars in benefits over his/her lifetime.

Please stand with me today and demand that Congress and the president oppose any grand bargain that cuts Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits.

When 1 out of 4 U.S. corporations pay nothing in federal income taxes; when Bush’s tax breaks for the rich remain in place for many wealthy Americans; when the U.S. spends almost as much as the rest of the world combined on defense, there are much fairer and more economically sound ways to address the budget than cutting programs desperately needed by the most vulnerable people in our country.

Please stand with me and Social Security Works in protecting the future of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits.

Let’s go forward together. Thanks for your continued support.


U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders
EDITOR’S NOTE: The letter above was not sent to this newspaper by the Senator. It was received by Neale Donald Walsch in his personal email box. The publisher of this online paper made the decision to place the appeal here, in this space, on the assumption that Sen. Sanders would want to this word to get to as large an audience as possible.

If you wish to sign the senator’s petition, click here.

When we help others in our own special way, we open ourselves up to the magic of the soul, bathing us in its light. And isn’t that a great place to be?

Everyone has a life purpose; everyone has a message to share with the world. But how are they conveying this message? Are they basing their message on their own personal experience or on their “intellectual” knowledge? In other words, are they coming from the mind or the heart? Have they had a life event, which has taken them to the place where they have met their inner gremlins face on and have battled with them, only to embrace them afterwards and taken them on as allies instead of adversaries? Or is it an intellectual exercise, a means to gain admiration and attention for what they profess to know? Have you ever seen, heard or read about someone who takes a workshop or two on a subject that interests them and then hangs out their shingle as if to say they are now an expert? Can they really “connect” with a person at a soul level if they haven’t really “been there, done that?”

That’s where I was when I first started my coaching practice. Oh, I had the deep desire to be a life coach for women, based on my own 40 years of experience (at the time), but my focus on helping was outwardly based. I was being directed by my ego, that part of the mind that is focused on our outer reality: our self importance, our self esteem. And if one’s focus is on outer reality, how can one really connect with her clients deeply, at the place where a person’s seed of life begins to sprout, allowing them to blossom into the glorious creature that they are meant to be? Life doesn’t begin outside of oneself; it begins with the divine spark within that is her guiding principle. And how can one help facilitate her clients’ journey down the road to their self discovery if she hasn’t traveled the road herself? If she hasn’t gone through the muck of her own life, confronting the skeletons in her closet, the demons in the shadows of her psyche? Only then can she truly relate to her clients’ needs… because she HAS “been there, done that.”

Unfortunately (or should I say “fortunately”) for me, it took a stroke in June 2011 for me to learn this lesson. It was a gift of the soul. I went through a total transformation of self, where I moved from the ego-based “what’s in it for me?” mindset to a more heart-centric “how can I serve others?” ethos. And my own trauma served as the catalyst for my ability to really minister to others with compassion and empathy, because I HAD been there and done that! Before I had my stroke, I had developed a program for women called Yin Radiance: The Journey to Inner Balance, based on my book Zesty Womanhood at 40 and Beyond. Being 40+ myself, I thought I would be able to help guide women with ease through their own process of going through the stage of their life when they began to nurture their own souls, instead of being caregivers of everyone else as they had been for decades before. And I thought I was speaking from my “heart”, where the divine goddess resides and radiates her love outward embracing all in her path with her warm glow. This was the natural, authentic way of being for a woman, was it not?

But it took a life-changing event to make me realize that my message to women was being filtered through my egoic mind that was more concerned about my outer appearance and how I was perceived by others, rather than coming from my core essence from which compassion and love flow. When I had this revelation about a shift in consciousness, the work I had done before my stroke took on so much more meaning, as I began to really connect with my own inner goddess. I no longer needed validation from anything outside myself. I felt suffused with the divine spark that is a part of every living creature. It was MY guiding principle.

With this new awareness, with my heart as the crux of this sacred equation, I will take delight in ministering to women’s divine souls, instead of indulging my ego’s whims. I have also begun plans to develop a program as a trauma recovery coach, using my book on healing and recovery Radiant Survivor as its foundation. And I have found that as one facilitates the self discovery of others, she herself continues down her own path of illumination. Although this notion has existed in my mind since I became a life coach in 2010, it has now moved to my heart where it resonates profoundly. When we help others in our own special way, we open ourselves up to the magic of the soul, bathing us in its light. And isn’t that a great place to be?

So I leave you with this… Do you have a message that you wish to convey? Have you traveled through the murky waters of life and have a story to tell? Follow your heart’s song. Use your life experiences to create that missive that you wish to share. And know that as you become an agent of change for others, so too will you be transformed. You can be a part of the new consciousness of the world.

(Erica Tucci had a full life as a corporate manager of a Fortune 500 company, a healing arts business owner and an author. It all came to a screeching halt in June 2011 when she had a stroke. During her recovery, she gained much wisdom about what’s really important in life and she re-entered the world with a new mission in life. She now wishes to use her story as an inspiration for others facing life challenges, which we all have, big or small, as well as continuing the work she was doing before her stroke, helping women find their “yin radiance” through their authentic voice and their own healing. She considers herself the Radiance Muse, inspiring you to live your life brilliantly. For more information, visit and

(If you would like to contribute an article you have authored to the Guest Column, please submit it to our Managing Editor, Lisa McCormack, for possible publication in this space. Not all submissions can be published, due to the number of submissions and sometimes because of other content considerations, but all are encouraged. Send submissions to Please label the topic: “Guest Column.”)

According to UNICEF, only 58% of secondary-aged children world-wide regularly attend school. In highly industrialized areas, like North America and Europe, that percentage rises to 92%. But in areas like Africa, those numbers fall to less than 30%. Two thirds of the world’s illiterate are woman. In some countries, it is even illegal for young girls to receive an education.

The lack of education has a cascading effect on the level of poverty. Consider these facts:

– Women in impoverished nations who have a secondary education have an average of 3 children. Those with less education have an average of 7.

– In developing countries, an additional year of education has the potential to increase yearly earnings by 10%.

– Women with a primary education level are 13% more likely to understand that condom use can help prevent the spread of HIV.

The level of poverty has a domino effect on the health and well being of the world’s population.

– More than 6 million children a year die from completely preventable causes like diarrhea and malaria. Most of these children are in impoverished nations with limited access to health care and clean drinking water.

– Another 6 million children under the age of five die every year from malnutrition.

– Almost 39% of the world’s population survives on less than $2 a day. More than 1 billion of those survive on less than $1 a day. To put that in perspective, someone in the US who is paying $589/month for a car loan for their gas-guzzling Hummer is paying every month almost twice what some people earn in an entire year.

In this day and age, numbers like this are almost unfathomable. Perhaps a better word would be unconscionable. Yet this is the very real situation for more than a third of the world’s population. And the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” is getting larger, even in industrialized and prosperous nations like the US. A 2013 report by the ALF-CIO places the average salary of a CEO in a US company at 364 times that of the average worker.  Even in Poland, a CEO makes 28 times what the average worker earns in one year.

How we got to this point would—and does—fill volumes. Countless theses have been written on the causes of poverty and an untold number of studies have been done on how to eradicate it. Unfortunately, none of those efforts will succeed no matter how many times we try, no matter what variations we enact into policy, no matter how strict we make our laws, no matter how many social organizations we form to combat poverty because none of them address the root cause of the problem: the steadfast belief in the absolute truth of the Five Fallacies about Life.

1. Humans are separate from each other.

2. There is not enough of what human beings need to be happy.

3. To get enough of the stuff there is not enough of, human beings must compete with each other.

4. Some human beings are better than other human beings.

5. It is appropriate for human beings to resolve severe differences created by all the other fallacies by killing each other.

Fortunately, the masters down through the ages have given us a very simple way to overcome our beliefs, since we seem so unwilling to change them. It is most commonly called “The Golden Rule” and it was first found in the Vedic tradition of India almost 5000 years ago. Virtually every faith and religion, every philosophical and spiritual practice that man has created has some version of this truly insightful statement. Simply put, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

The reason that following this simple rule would change life as we know it overnight is due to the fact that, at the very root of the matter, every one of us wants to be treated exactly the same way! Every one of us wants to live our life as we see fit, according to the beliefs that we hold dear, without undue interference from others.

If every one of us followed the Golden Rule, there would be no need for laws, no need for governments, no need for armies, no need for nations. There would be no poverty, no killing, no abuse, no wars, no rape, no discrimination, no wanton destruction of the environment.

I would not kill you because I would not want to be killed.

I would not pollute your water supply because I would not want my water supply polluted.

I would not let you go hungry because I would not want to go hungry.

I would not interfere with your choice of who to marry because I would not want someone to interfere with my choice.

I would make sure you had access to all the knowledge you needed to live your life as you saw fit because I want access to all the knowledge I need to live my life as I see fit.

“But that will never happen!” I can hear the naysayers cry already. “You’ll never get everyone to follow the Golden Rule!”

You don’t have to.

The Golden Rule is a unilateral, unconditional command. It does not say “Treat others the way you want to be treated only if they treat you that way first” or “only if they treat you that way in return” or “only if they’re the same color/religion/orientation/socioeconomic level/etc. as you”. It says simply “Treat other people the way you want to be treated.” Period.  End of discussion.

You are to follow the Golden Rule in spite of how other people treat you. You are not to sit around and wait for someone else to follow the Golden Rule before you begin to follow it.

When you do this, small miracles happen. People start to like the way you are treating them and they begin to take notice and they begin to imitate how you treat others and they begin to treat others the way you treated them. With Love. Unconditional Love.

When unconditional Love is given out, it multiplies. It is contagious. It spreads. Because it is healing to be Loved unconditionally. Just as when one cell of your body begins to heal, the cells around it begin to heal, so too will the human race heal when Loved unconditionally.

Are you willing to be the first cell in your world to heal?

Shelly(Shelly Strauss is a civil rights activist and speaker.  In addition to becoming an ordained minister, she has written 20+ novels and is the “resident visionary” at One Spirit Project.  Shelly is also a spiritual helper on the ChangingChange website, offering support and guidance to people faced with unexpected and unwelcome change .)

Here are five categories to play ANYWAY- triple dog dare ya.

1.  Money– you have none. You are always broke. You live paycheck by paycheck. You want to buy things but cant. You just don’t make enough.  What is free? What do you have? Good friends? Your health? Amazing laugh? Do you have moments where you can giggle with your kid(s) instead of buy them something? Do you know that we always remember moments where no money was needed? Remember that.

2.  Mistakes– guess what? We all mess up. My little kid likes to call these moments “oops a note to self” and she has got a point. So what. You messed up. For goodness sakes celebrate it. Now you know what wont work. Get up, get on with it and find a place in you that can actually celebrate it. Every thing is a gift.

3.  Loss–  I lost my dad. I lost my job. I lost time with kid. How can I Play anyway? I can allow my feelings of grief to come over for a tea party. I can let myself out to play. ALL parts of me. I can allow myself to be held and rocked like a baby.  Play with the idea that there is no thing I need to do to “get through it”- then to just hug it. Hug your grief.

4.  Body and Health–  Play with the idea that most diet fads and workouts are designed to not FEEL good but WORK YOU HARD. Play is the opposite. I am a recovering bulimic and was addicted to working out HARD. It sucked. It never worked. Find something that you enjoy. Walking to music. Five minutes of dance party. Whatever it is – play. Your body will help you. Play with the idea that food is not really the enemy- how you eat it perhaps may be.  Lighten up. Enjoying life looks better then counting calories.

5.  Parenting–  See your kid as your mirror. Let them orchestrate the next way to play. Be curious. Mess up. Laugh at yourself. Provide space for them to BE WHO THEY ARE. Don’t overschedule. Be bored with one another. You will never get it perfect so enjoy each little nook and cranny. Hug longer.

Jenny Head SHot(Renowned speaker and author Jenny Ward has been seen across the country bringing play, work/life balance and parent workshops to Visa, You Tube, Merrill Lynch, Girl Scouts, YMCA, Stanford and numerous other corporations and non profits. Her individual clients have enjoyed working with Jenny on single parenting, play, stress eradication and play based parenting for over 8 years. Jenny’s work can be seen on DOVE, San Francisco Times, Today’s MAMA, Nick for Kids, and numerous other publications.)

(If you would like to contribute an article you have authored to the Guest Column, please submit it to our Managing Editor, Lisa McCormack, for possible publication in this space. Not all submissions can be published, due to the number of submissions and sometimes because of other content considerations, but all are encouraged. Send submissions to Please label the topic: “Guest Column.)

Before World Peace, World Prosperity, World Harmony, Health, Happiness, etc. & all that other good stuff can be achieved, we will see it first modeled in miniature.

That is, in certain areas, people of  like-minded mentality will start flocking or congregating towards it.

Before the proverbial World Peace, we may first have it in certain areas ~ perhaps first in small islands, villages or towns, or larger cities or countries.  An example might be when a small country models this, and larger countries eventually follow suit.

It may happen spontaneously, or organizationally, or both.

What this does, is to give us a taste, or a contextual field of comparison to experience it in miniature, and this can help us decide what we may prefer to experience as a larger collective.

I’ve not heard of such a place or places yet, but maybe you have?  I do believe there are individuals who do this within their own lives.  This seems more so now, than at any other time in earth’s history/herstory.

Now, if the world truly desired World Peace at this time, we’d put way more education, effort, energy, research & resources toward creating that.  So, on some unconscious, or maybe even conscious level, we simply are not ready or willing for it, and couldn’t even handle it if it did suddenly happen.  Let me give you an example:

Years back, I heard a public radio program where nice,
middle-class couples would take in foster kids, to give them the loving homes they always wanted.  Yet what happened, was that the kids would eventually do things like start fires & create havoc.

I was personally astounded at this!  I thought that kids from a chaotic, dysfunctional environment would love to be in a more financially & emotionally prosperous, peaceful and loving environment.

Yet, what the program reported was that the kids where so used to the negative drama in their lives, that to be moved out of it was kind of a shock, and so they re-created this chaos because that’s what they were used to.  They just weren’t ready or acclimated enough for such a huge change.

I think this can apply to World Peace too.  If we had World Peace tomorrow, we might think it to be absolutely grand; however, we’d be so unfamiliar with it, that we’d go back to creating negative drama again, simply since that’s what we’re used to.

Another example:
Often (not always) people who are too quickly put in certain situations, even desirable ones, are simply not prepared for them. … People who gain fame, wealth, or both, too fast, can have great difficulty adjusting to the suddenness of it all.  People often fair better when it’s more gradual over time.

What do you think?

This is something I think about.  I think about it also in relation to people like many of us, advancing on the spiritual path, who feel our evolution, as a world, is just too slow.

I get that – I feel it too!  The antidote, is to have compassion & love on our unhealed parts or those aspects that are not fully healed.

That does not mean that we can’t be the influencers, instigators, leaders, movers & role models to move this forward.  We can, and this can bring it in more smoothly.

How many people feel deep inner peace?  Or, how many even feel inner peace as a majority of their experience?  If we don’t have our own individual inner peace, how can we expect the rest of the world to?

Many people think there is a point of critical mass, when a certain amount of individuals have inner peace, and it then will spread more quickly, both globally & collectively.

An example of quick, but also gradual movement, is how smart phones spread worldwide. The first iPhones came out June 29, 2007.  That’s only 6 years ago!  People adapted quickly, at least those who could afford them.  Even many homeless people now have cell phones.

I think that as more of us work & play to have inner peace & harmony, and emotional & financial prosperity, this will attract more of that to us.  This will also influence others to find out how we achieved it, and are able to sustain it.

Is this a viable way to look at World Peace?  Will we ever achieve it?  Do we need to?  Is it inevitable, given our evolution?  What do you think?

Marko(Marko Damkoehler is an artist/writer/musician and creator of, as well as an avid student of CwG. He is also one of the Spiritual Helper Moderators on the website.)

(If you would like to contribute an article you have authored to the Guest Column, please submit it to our Managing Editor, Lisa McCormack, for possible publication in this space. Not all submissions can be published, due to the number of submissions and sometimes because of other content considerations, but all are encouraged. Send submissions to Please label the topic: “Guest Column.)