NEW YORK - A National Council of Churches delegation going to Rome will tell Pope John Paul II that it supports a request that he visit the United Nations to address the U.N. Security Council about the situation in Iraq.
The delegation, which will include United Methodist Bishop William Boyd Grove of Charleston, W. Va., will arrive Feb. 26 in Rome and proceed immediately to the Vatican to be part of a papal audience.
During its Feb. 24-25 meeting, the NCC's executive board agreed the delegation should lend its support to a Feb. 18 letter from Pax Christi USA to the pope, asking for his presence at the United Nations.
"Both media and governmental leaders here (in the United States) have been dismissive of the expressions of anti-war sentiment from countries around the world, instead reinforcing the insulation of U.S. policy-making from outside critique," wrote Dave Robinson, national coordinator for Pax Christi USA, a Catholic peace movement. "Your moral voice and presence here could break through. You could bring the desperately needed wisdom on how the U.S. could be a world leader, without the dependence on military might and policies of global dominance."
The Rome trip is the fourth NCC-sponsored delegation to European capitals, part of an effort by U.S. religious leaders to spread a message of peace and forestall military action against Iraq. The group members, led by the Rev. Eileen Lindner, a Presbyterian and NCC executive, will express their concerns to Italian government leaders.
Other members of the Feb. 26-28 Rome delegation are the Rev. Tyrone Pitts, Progressive National Baptist Convention; the Rev. Victor Makari, Presbyterian Church USA; the Rev. Gwynne Guibord, Episcopal Church; and the Rev. Joseph Nangle, Pax Christi.
The emphasis on peace also is being carried over into the NCC's focus on poverty in March, beginning with a March 2 event in San Francisco. "We're going to connect our peace work with our poverty work," the Rev. Robert Edgar, a United Methodist and the NCC's chief executive, told executive board delegates.
The March 2 "Poverty March for Peace" will highlight the connections between poverty and war. Among the participants in a 3 p.m. interfaith prayer service at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco will be United Methodist Bishop Beverly Shamana; Marian Wright Edelman, Children's Defense Fund; Jim Wallis, Sojourners; Rabbi Stephen Pearce, Congregation Emanu-el; and Omar Ahmad, Council on American-Islamic Relations.
After the service, worshippers will march through some of the poor neighborhoods of San Francisco, Edgar added.
The NCC's second annual "Poverty March" is a month-long initiative highlighting the work of faith communities in overcoming poverty. Beginning March 1, the NCC's Web site, www.ncccusa.org, will have a special section offering fact sheets and information for each week's topic. The topics throughout March are jobs and income, health care, hunger, and housing and homelessness.
Special events include a series of national and local activities during "Cover the Uninsured Week," March 10-16, co-sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, faith groups and other organizations; a congress on urban ministry in Chicago; and a seminar on sustainable rural communities in Waveland, Miss.
By Albert H. Lee