Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Catholic Antiwar Activists Join Protests

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Catholic Antiwar Activists Join Protests

Article excerpt

Jesuit Fr. Edward Coughlin blessed a crowd of worshipers attending Mass at St. Francis Xavier Church Aug. 29, praying for their peace, safety and welfare and giving thanks to God for their "generosity of heart." The crowd, which included more than half of the early Mass attendees, dispersed not into a war zone, but into one of this city's largest antiwar marches.

Xavier's associate pastor, Jesuit Matt Roche, said he was not surprised that almost two-thirds of the congregation left Mass to participate in the demonstration. "This is an unusually aware parish. It's a very political community and a politically aware parish with many interested in politics and committed to actions for peace and justice."

The parishioners joined a throng of activists estimated at between 150,000 and 400,000, comprising some 800 groups affiliated with United for Peace and Justice--organizer of the demonstration. They moved from Washington Square and the streets of Chelsea up Seventh Avenue to Madison Square Garden, where that week the Republican National Convention was to nominate George Bush to serve a second term as president.

"I was simply blown away by how many different people and how many different messages were here," said Frida Berrigan, who was in the lead off section of the march, representing the national committee of the War Resisters League. The league, which prides itself as being the oldest continuous protest group in America, drew many Catholic activists, including Jesuit Fr. Simon Harak, who has served as the anti-military coordinator of the group for a year.

Marching alongside the league were members of the Catholic Worker, the Kairos Community, Plowshares New York, and the Atlantic Life Community, a network of resistance communities stretching up and down the East Coast. Besides New York and New Jersey protesters, others arrived from Boston, Baltimore, Hartford, Philadelphia, Chicago and more than 1,000 from the San Francisco area. …

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