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Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace View Comments
By Pat McCloskey, OFM

In the piazza outside the Lower Basilica of St. Francis, Pope Benedict XVI and participants renew
their commitment to work for peace and justice in the world.

ATTRACTED BY the peacemaking St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Benedict XVI, 300 representatives of Christianity and other world religions and four philosophers who identify themselves as nonbelievers gathered in Assisi on Oct. 27. This was the 25th anniversary of Blessed Pope John Paul II’s historic gathering to commit religious leaders to work for world peace. The day was organized by the pontifical councils for justice and peace, culture, interreligious dialogue and the promotion of Christian unity.

Official participants went by train with the pope to Santa Maria degli Angeli, the Assisi suburb named for the nearby small chapel that St. Francis rebuilt in 1206. A video of the 1986 ecumenical and interfaith event was shown. After representatives of the Anglicans, Greek Orthodox, Armenians, World Council of Churches, Grand Rabbinate of Israel, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists gave testimonies for peace, professor Julia Kristeva, a Bulgarian-born humanist, philosopher and psychoanalyst, spoke.

Writing for Catholic News Service, John Thavis reported Kristeva’s call to create forms of cooperation between Christian humanism and the humanism of the Enlightenment, a risky path but one worth taking. She called Pope John Paul II “an apostle of human rights.”

Pope Benedict XVI then observed that the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall was a victory of freedom, “which was also, above all, a victory of peace.” Noting that some people have used freedom for violence, the pope admitted “with great shame” that some Christians have tried to promote religion violently, contradicting religion’s true purpose. He said that gross violations of human rights have occurred when God’s role in human development has been denied.

Following a frugal meal in the adjoining St. Mary of the Angels Friary, official participants went to rooms in a nearby guesthouse for reflection and personal prayer.

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Pat McCloskey, O.F.M., the Franciscan editor of this publication, attended the 1986 event in Assisi. His 12-talk series, “Sinful Priests, Scandal in the Church and the Hope of St. Francis,” was recently published by Now You Know Media.

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Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions: Lawrence (Lorenzo) was born in Manila of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both Christians. Thus he learned Chinese and Tagalog from them and Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He became a professional calligrapher, transcribing documents in beautiful penmanship. He was a full member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary under Dominican auspices. He married and had two sons and a daughter. 
<p>His life took an abrupt turn when he was accused of murder. Nothing further is known except the statement of two Dominicans that "he was sought by the authorities on account of a homicide to which he was present or which was attributed to him." </p><p>At that time three Dominican priests, Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet and Miguel de Aozaraza, were about to sail to Japan in spite of a violent persecution there. With them was a Japanese priest, Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named Lazaro, a leper. Lorenzo, having taken asylum with them, was allowed to accompany them. But only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan. </p><p>They landed at Okinawa. Lorenzo could have gone on to Formosa, but, he reported, "I decided to stay with the Fathers, because the Spaniards would hang me there." In Japan they were soon found out, arrested and taken to Nagasaki. The site of wholesale bloodshed when the atomic bomb was dropped had known tragedy before. The 50,000 Catholics who once lived there were dispersed or killed by persecution. </p><p>They were subjected to an unspeakable kind of torture: After huge quantities of water were forced down their throats, they were made to lie down. Long boards were placed on their stomachs and guards then stepped on the ends of the boards, forcing the water to spurt violently from mouth, nose and ears. </p><p>The superior, Antonio, died after some days. Both the Japanese priest and Lazaro broke under torture, which included the insertion of bamboo needles under their fingernails. But both were brought back to courage by their companions. </p><p>In Lorenzo's moment of crisis, he asked the interpreter, "I would like to know if, by apostatizing, they will spare my life." The interpreter was noncommittal, but Lorenzo, in the ensuing hours, felt his faith grow strong. He became bold, even audacious, with his interrogators. </p><p>The five were put to death by being hanged upside down in pits. Boards fitted with semicircular holes were fitted around their waists and stones put on top to increase the pressure. They were tightly bound, to slow circulation and prevent a speedy death. They were allowed to hang for three days. By that time Lorenzo and Lazaro were dead. The three Dominican priests, still alive, were beheaded. </p><p>In 1987, Blessed John Paul II canonized these six and 10 others, Asians and Europeans, men and women, who spread the faith in the Philippines, Formosa and Japan. Lorenzo Ruiz is the first canonized Filipino martyr.</p> American Catholic Blog We don’t have to scrub off our sin so God can love us. Instead, when we allow God’s healing love to touch us, we want to leave sin behind. Growth starts in love, not in guilt.

 
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