Pax Christi New York State (PCNYS) is a region of Pax Christi USA (PCUSA), which is a member of Pax Christi International (PCI), the Catholic peace movement. The name Pax Christi is Latin for Peace of Christ and goes back to our founding at the end of WW II in France. Bishop Pierre Marie Theas and Marie-Marthe Dortel Claudot founded Pax Christi for reconciliation between France and Germany; hence, its first and foremost agenda item to this day is reconciliation. The primary means by which reconciliation was to be achieved was prayer with a focus on Germany. The future Pope John XXIII encouraged that this “agenda” be expanded to a “Prayer Crusade for the Nations.” Pope Pius XII gave Pax Christi his blessing in a letter drafted by the future Pope Paul VI. It was he who dubbed Pax Christi “the Catholic Peace Movement,” our ultimate agenda.
Fifty years after its founding, Pope John Paul II graced hundreds of members of Pax Christi from around the world with a papal audience at which he described our agenda most eloquently. In part he stated:
1) Faced with hatred, and lack of respect for human beings and their fundamental rights, your movement has never stopped campaigning for peace and reconciliation. It came into being to promote the armaments of prayer, dialogue and of reflection. Only these can radically oppose violence, and all the inhuman effects of totalitarian ideologies….
3) At the end of the murderous conflict in 1945, hope for a future of peace and solidarity could once more arise in the peoples of Europe. People longed for communication and for the building of society in friendship. Pax Christi came into being in this spirit, as a movement for reconciliation between individuals and peoples. Its name reminds us strongly of the origin of true peace: the Lord, who inspires in our hearts the grace of conversion and reconciliation, and shows the path to being truly human.
4) During the last few years, your movement has also worked patiently and disinterestedly for unity and dialogue between Christians and other religions. Wherever possible, you have worked to build peace, building mutual understanding between communities. You have worked for respect of the rights of specific cultures, individuals and peoples….
5) I should also like to bring before you the appeals sent out by my predecessors and by me…about the need to move down the path to disarmament…. In this area, we hail the recent decision, adopted by consensus at the United Nations, for an indefinite extension of the nonproliferation treaty on nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, all countries will hopefully work towards a better, complete enactment of the treaty, aiming at the creation of an international order which could ensure the security of all people, and achieve disarmament. Fortunately, thanks to movements like yours, public opinion is aware of these issues….
7) But the reduction of arms, disarmament and absence of war do not lead to immediate peace. We have to create a culture of life and of peace…. Movements like yours are precious. They help draw people’s attention to the violence which shatters the harmony between human beings which is at the heart of creation. They help to develop conscience, so that justice and the search for the common good can prevail in the relations between individuals and peoples. These are the foundations for lasting peace….
8) Sharing these thoughts, I bless you with all my heart. I bless you, and all members of Pax Christi whom you represent. Through your words and your life, the world may recognize that peace is a gift of God; that peace is possible for the world in Christ, our Passover and our lasting peace.
Pax Christi’s agenda remains the same these many years later—internationally, nationally, and statewide. While the specific issues may evolve with the times, we continue to promote peace and social justice for all, grounded in the Gospel, especially the Beatitudes, and in the rich body of Catholic Social Teaching. As such, it is one of the most authentically Catholic organizations I know, not modeled after Constantine’s church of the 3rd to 4th century or a medieval monarchy, but on Jesus. It is one of the most pro-life movements, not solely focused on abortion, but on all life issues. Through prayer, study, and action, Pax Christi members everywhere defend life from conception to natural death. In concrete terms that means opposing abortion, war, torture, nuclear weapons, racism, sexism, capital punishment, global climate change and environmental destruction. It means supporting worker rights, immigration reform, universal health care, and cross-cultural understanding. It means witnessing to the Peace of Christ to the best of our ability and humbly sharing in His experience when our message is misunderstood, misrepresented, and even falsely condemned.
Here in PCUSA, regions represent and coordinate local group communities, college and high school chapters, religious communities, parishes, and other affiliates in a geographical area.State chapters like PCNYS collaborate with the Pax Christi USA National Office in organizing statewide events (for example retreats, campaigns, and conferences), communicate with and coordinate local groups and individual members using a variety of means, help establish and nurture new Pax Christi communities, and network with other state chapters and the Pax Christi USA National Office. As an incredibly vital part of Pax Christi USA’s identity as a grassroots’ movement, state chapters develop opportunities for prayer, study and action within their area, mobilize support for Pax Christi USA initiatives, and provide resources and connection for their members.
PCNYS is PCUSA’s newest state chapter and still in development, but we comprise four established regions: Pax Christi Long Island (the Rockville Centre Diocese), Pax Christi Metro New York (defined by the Archdiocese of New York and the Brooklyn Diocese), Pax Christi Upstate New York (the Dioceses of Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, and Ogdensburg), and Pax Christi Western New York (the Diocese of Buffalo). Within each of these four regions, there may be smaller local groups which are always eager to welcome new members. There is also always the possibility of starting a new local group. Just go to our Contact page to express your interest. Let us know where you are and how to contact you. We’ll be sure someone gets back to you in your part of the state.
“We” are PCNYS Co-coordinators, Rosemarie Pace and Ryan DiCorpo. Rosemarie holds a Doctorate in Education from St. John’s University in Jamaica, NY; is a former Associate Professor of Teacher Education at The College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, NY; retired Director of Pax Christi Metro New York; and current member of Pax Christi Queens. Ryan is a graduate of Fordham University in Bronx, NY; current graduate student of Journalism at Northeastern University in Boston, MA; assistant to Fr. James Martin at America Magazine; and member of PCUSA’s Young Adult Caucus.