To the editor:
Franz Jagerstatter was an Austrian peasant executed on August 9, 1943 for refusing to serve in the Nazi army. Even his bishop had urged Franz to “go along” but he was convinced serving in the Nazis’ unjust war was contrary to his faith and would endanger his immortal soul.
Last summer, Pope Benedict XVI declared Franz a martyr which led to his beatification on October 26th. A group of U.S. Catholics present for the occasion felt called to try and break the silence of our bishops about the unjust war in Iraq. The group has become Franz Jagerstatter People to Break the Silence and is sponsoring actions of prayer and fasting in a number of cathedrals this Lent.
In Rochester, the Franz Jagerstatter People will witness outside Sacred Heart Cathedral on Ash Wednesday. After 12:10 Mass, we will spend the day in an attitude of silent adoration and petition in front of the Blessed Sacrament. A suggested focus of petitions is a teaching of the truth of Gospel nonviolence and an end to legitimized Catholic participation in the Iraq War, beginning in our diocese.
Two popes have said the Iraq War is illegal, immoral and unjust. Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household, has preached that “the Eucharist is the Sacrament of nonviolence.” It’s hard to imagine how anyone could look to this Lent as a time for unity and renewal in Jesus without taking this into account.
Franz’s faith and hope in the promises of Christ was embodied in his resistance to evil. Sinners and struggling disciples are invited to join this effort. We will try to maintain a presence in the cathedral on at least the Fridays of Lent, depending on interest.
For Franz Jagerstatter People to Break the Silence,
Vivian Rightmeyer, Churchville
Mark Scibilia-Carver, Trumansburg