2017 AMI activity

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DECEMBER 31, 2017 – End of Austrian Presidency and the Netherlands Secretariate General

On behalf of the presidency and the Secretariate General of the “Apostolate Militaire International”
I say “Thank You” again for following me and the execom. The last six (nine years) were a marvellous and extraordinary interesting time.
I wish the new presidency and new execom all the best, luck and success.

Concluding and once I would like to say also “Thank You” to my wife Ida.
As it is said “Behind every successful man there stands a woman”….

I just can confirm. She is the one behind, aside and staying by me, my chief controller and my enabler-in-chief. She is simply the best.

And now – time to say good bye…


On behalf of the AMI executive committee

AMI-President MajGen Norbert Sinn and

AMI-Secretary General Nelleke Swinkels – van de Vorst

wish you all,

members, associates and friends of AMI

A Blessed and beautiful Christmas and a more peaceful year 2018!


DECEMBER 11-15, 2017 – Meeting of the ExeCom in Rome

Last week AMI-President MajGen Norbert Sinn, Secretary General Nelleke Swinkels-van de Vorst, ecclesiastical assistant, father Patrick Dolan, elect AMI-President Vice Admiral Matthieu Borsboom, elect AMI Vice President Capt RNLN Frank Marcus and elect Secretary General Col Domenico D’Ortenzi were gathered in Rome, to say farewell to many institutions and persons in the Vatican, and to introduce the newly elected ExeCom, starting January 1, 2018.

Meetings and brainstorm

Tuesday morning we started with a meeting of the old and new ExeCom. Opinions were exchanged and lots of questions of the new ExeCom could be answered. Afterwards the new team started working with a brainstorm about the new Vision paper with the goals and themes of AMI 2018-2021.

Pontifical Counsel for Culture and the Forum of Catholic Inspired NGO’s

Tuesday afternoon we met at the Pontifical Council H.E. Cardinal Ravasi and his Secretary Melchor Sanchez de Toca Y Alameda. It was a meeting with friends, and Cardinal Ravasi came with some excellent thoughts and themes concerning the future work of AMI.

Later the day AMI visited the “Forum of Catholic Inspired NGO’S”, gathered in Rome for the third time. We assisted together with the members of the Forum the Holy Mass, celebrated by H.E. Cardinal Parolin, to whom we could talk after the Holy Mass and introduce to him the members of the new AMI ExeCom.

Cardinal Parolin emphasized the importance of the work of AMI, because it is unique as a lay organisation within the Catholic Church.

Wednesday morning we had a meeting with Archbishop Santo Marcianò and we were invited to assist Holy Mass in the Santa Caterina, church of the Military ordinariate. It was a special celebration for the men and women serving in the Italian Coast guard.

Later that day we spoke to Padre Julio Cerchietti from the office for the coordination of Military ordinariates, asking for what from his point of view could be useful to work on for AMI.

Holy Mass at Santa Marta

Thursday morning MajGen Norbert Sinn was invited to assist the Holy Mass at Santa Marta, celebrated by the Holy Father himself, giving again the opportunity to meet him afterwards and to exchange a few words with him.

This day we had a lot of meetings:

The first one was at the State Secretariat. We met Dottoressa Fermina Alvarez and Assessor for General Affairs Mons. Paolo Borgia, introducing the new ExeCom and speaking about the future work of AMI. The new president Vice Admiral Matthieu Borsboom talked about the vision document the new ExeCom is going to draw up in the upcoming 3 months.

Later the day AMI met in Trastevere at the Dicastery for Human Development, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, and had the opportunity to shake hands with the head of the Dicastery Cardinal Turkson. One can state, that Archbishop Tomasi became a real friend of AMI. We know him already from the first Forum of Catholic Inspired NGO’s in 2010. He worked with the UN in Geneva and recognizes quite clear the importance of our military expertise.

The last meeting, this Thursday, at the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life was a successful one. We met the new Secretary Fr. Awi Mello and again an old friend, Dottore Philip Milligan.

It was the final journey of the acting AMI ExeCom to the Vatican. Everywhere we were welcomed with open arms and in friendship.

You may say that there is a new wind blowing, from openness and action.

We can look at an extremely successful time, in which it was possible to make AMI real present in Rome and the Vatican.

Nelleke and Norbert said goodbye everywhere and of course a touch of sorrow could be felt.

Time to say Good-Bye…! Partir est mourir un peu!

Wishing you all, old and new ExeCom a very Blessed Christmas and a Happy 2018!


NOVEMBER 2017 – Thirty years Military Ordinariate in Austria

November 23, 2017 Military Bishop Werner Freistetter and the Austrian Military Ordinariate celebrated, together with the Austrian Armed Forces, the founding of the Military Ordinariate in Austria 30 years ago.A high-ranking audience gathered in Wiener Neustadt, seat of the Military Academy “Maria Theresa”, which houses also the Cathedral of the Military Bishop.

AMI presidency and Secretariat General assisted this celebration.

It started with lectures, given by Military Archbishop Santo Marcianò and by the Chief of Defense Staff, General Othmar Commenda.

Both spoke about tasks and responsibility of soldiers and how military chaplains and lay people could help to ameliorate the situation during service in barracks, military missions abroad and national. Several hundred people and responsible persons of the Armed Forces, as well as guests, listened to them.

In the afternoon there was a solemn Holy Mess in the Gothic style Cathedral of the Military Academy, together with many catholic soldiers and international guests, from Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and the Slovak Republic.

The day ended with a military tattoo in the inner courtyard of the Military Academy and exchange of gifts of remembrance to the Military Bishop of Austria.

AMI used this opportunity to talk about the planned ultimate gathering and meeting of the old and new Executive Committee in Rome, from 12 to 15 December 2017.


OCTOBER 20, 2017 – Blessed Jakob Kern, commemoration day at the monastery of Geras 

Jakob Kern was a young soldier and commissioned officer during WWI and was heavily wounded. Still, after a short recreation time, he was sent to the front again. Already in the time when he was recovering from his wound, he started studying theology and after the war became a Premonstratensian priest in the monastery of Geras/Austria. He died October 20, 1924 as a result of his wounds (narcotisation was not possible during the operations he had to undergo). Pope John Paul II blessed him in 1998.


OCTOBER 17-18, 2017 – Enquete of the Institute for Religion and Peace

This year’s Enquete dealt with questions regarding “Soldiers During Revolutionary Processes”. Also, this year Official Austria commemorated its well-known Empress by organizing several exhibitions and congresses. Therefore the first lecture was chosen with respect to Maria Theresa, who was born 300 years ago on May 17, 1717.

Two aspects of Maria Theresia’s life are especially worthy to be mentioned: firstly, she had to defend her empire by military force almost all her life against Frederic II from Prussia, and secondly she started quite a lot of (for the empire) revolutionary developments and transformations in her empire (besides many others: compulsory education for children, developments in health-care and significant changes in the training of the armed forces).

Therefore the Enquete dealt at first with the wars against Prussia, the fate of soldiers who were wounded or fell sick during and the transformations she started to make the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy more sustainable and more able to resist Prussia.

In the second part the Russian revolution of 1917 (the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, together with the German Empire, was at war with the Russian Empire since August 1914) was focussed on.

As a last section, more actual developments e.g. the recent conflict in the Central African Republic, the strategic ideas and consequences of the People’s Republic of China reconstruction of the so called “silk road” were highlighted and finally the developments concerning the road to peace in Colombia were discussed.

AMI president Norbert Sinn attended the conference and met friends from Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Czech Republic, and other countries. During the Enquete many opportunities presented themselves to get into contact with people from other countries and making them familiar with AMI.


SEPTEMBER, 2017 – AMI-General Assembly Rome, 18-22 September 2017  

Sixteen delegations from 4 continents took part in the 52second AMI- conference and General Assembly in Rome from September 18 till 22, 2017.Austria, Belgium Croatia, Germany, Ghana, Kenya, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Nigeria, Philippines, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, United Kingdom, USA, and of course our host: Italy! The organisation team of Italy and especially Col Domenico D’Ortenzi made every effort to offer the participants an excellent and pleasant environment in the eternal city Rome.

The theme of this year’s conference was: “Searching for roots”

Let us find the “Ten Commandments”, guidelines for soldiers, working for peace at home or on missions abroad, by researching the roots of our believe and faith.

Our opening Pontifical Service took place in the Santa Caterina Church, the church of the Italian Military Ordinariate in Rome.

On Monday morning the participants were welcomed by Mons Angelo Frigerio, Vicar General of the Italian Military Ordinariate, he gave the participants an overview of the organization of the Military Chaplaincy in Italy.

The first lecture, given by Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, was titled “The Holy See and the Promotion of International Humanitarian Law”.

The second lecturer was LtGen Roberto Nordio, deputy Chief of Defence Staff of Italy. He inspired the audience with his lecture, “How can you be a military Leader when Continents are drifting? What are your roots and motives?”

Honourable (LtGen) Domenico Rossi, Deputy Secretary of Defence submerged us in what he thinks about the meaning of Democracy in this era and what the role is of Christian Values in political Life?

Last but not least this Monday was the turn on to Prof. Dr. Theo de Wit, University of Tilburg/Netherlands, who gave us a fascinating argument with his speech “Justice, Love and Patriotism: Dangerous Liaisons”.

Tuesday, September 21, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, inspired us with his lecture “Culture, Spirituality, Civil and Military Life” (“Cultura, Spiritualità, vita civile e militare”).

During the week we listened to contributions of Mike Terry of Military Ministries International and to Col Domenico D’Ortenzi, Italian delegate and organiser of the conference.

Interreligious dialogue with other denominations

Having an open mind to other denominations we visited the museum and the Synagogue of Rome, spoke to very interested young people and learned about our Jewish brothers and sisters, as well as we met Imam, Sheik Salah Ramadan, who gave us a very warm welcome in the Mosque of Rome. The Mosque is the natural religious and cultural focus of Rome’s Islamic community. It includes a large library with a collection of over 10.000 books in Arabic.

In the several working groups delegates tried to work out the theme of the conference and to discover the “ Ten Commandments”, guidelines for soldiers, working for peace at home or on missions abroad.

Spettacolo”, a divine “Concert for Peace” in the Pantheon

One of the highlights of the week was the so-called “Spettacolo”, organised by the Italian Military Ordinariate on Tuesday evening in the Pantheon.

The Pantheon, a former Roman temple, is now in use as a Catholic church, the Basilica Santa Maria ad Martyres.

Two kings of Italy are buried in the Pantheon: Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I, as well as Umberto’s Queen, Margherita.

H.E. Mons Santo Marciano, Archbishop of the Military Ordinariate of Italy, invited many important stakeholders, among which the Military attachés, stationed in Rome, to this divine concert given by the Polyphonic Choir and Orchestra of the Vicariate of Rome and directed by Mons. Marco Frisina.

General audience

Assisting the general audience on Wednesday morning was another absolute highlight during our conference in Rome. We had the opportunity to see the Holy Father from very near by and President Norbert Sinn and SecGen Nelleke Swinkels explained that we are Catholic lay people and soldiers from 16 nations worldwide an that we work for the Christian vision of life within the armed forces. He told us to stay strong and asked to pray for Him. We handed over to him a small gift of appreciation, including our current booklet about the 2016 conference in The Netherlands.

Elections of a new Executive Committee

On the last day of the conference there were elections of the new Executive Committee of AMI.

President Norbert Sinn, his vice presidents, Col Fritz Aflenzer and WO I Markus Stromberger, Secretary General Nelleke Swinkels, Col (ret) Jan van Lieverloo and treasurer Herman Vriesema will resign at the end of December 2017.

After some farewell and thank you speeches the general Assembly of AMI appointed President Norbert Sinn, after his resignation on the 31st of December 2017, President of Honour of Apostolat Militaire International.

This special appreciation was awarded for his extraordinary and permanent involvement and the many makings given to Apostolat Militaire International

The Netherlands was elected unanimously by open ballot for the AMI Presidency and Italy was elected unanimously by open ballot for the AMI Secretariat General.

The new Executive Committee consists of the President, Vice Admiral Matthieu Borsboom from The Netherlands, Vice Presidents CAPT RNLN (ret) Frank Markus and WOII Ferry Thannhauser.

The new Secretary General will be Col Domenico D’Ortenzi from Italy and his treasurer will be WOII Sergeant Vincenzo Damiano Pandolfo.

Celebrating Holy Mass in 5 Basilica’s in Rome

Rome is one of the world’s most recognizable and remarkable cities in this world. Home to the Roman Republic that became one, if not, the most famous empires in the history of mankind, this city was at the center of Western civilization for over a millennium. Currently Rome is amongst the most visited cities in the world.

There are more than 900 churches in Rome.

We celebrated Holy Masses in the Caterina Church of the Military Ordinariate, Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, St. Peter’s Dome, Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore and finally in Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. All of them, churches with a long lasting history and of great importance. Most impressive was the Holy Mass in the Chapel of the Holy Cross in St Peters Basilica.

Honorary papal distinction for the outgoing Secretary General

During the closing dinner, where also was present another President of Honour, Bgen Reinhard Kloss and his wife, there was a big surprise for our outgoing Secretary General Nelleke Swinkels. She received the honorary papal distinction, Knight in the Order of Saint Sylvester.

Nelleke was totally surprised and speechless as she herself stipulated.

In the mean time all delegates are back home safely and will ask attention for the final results of the 2017 AMI Conference in Rome in their own countries.

The 2018 AMI Conference and General Assembly will take place in Croatia in October 2018.

Press Release download

Final results download


JULY 11, 2017 – Meeting with Military Bishop Jure Bogdan of Croatia

AMI President Norbert Sinn travelled to Zagreb, the Capital of Croatia, for a meeting with Military Bishop Jure Bogdan and his Vicar General Jakov Mamić.On the agenda stood to explore the possibility of organizing a general assembly/conference of AMI in Croatia.

Croatia declared its independence in 1991, and had to fight a war against Serbia until 1995. It has been a member state of the European Union since July 1st, 2013 and it is an important country, situated in the south eastern part of middle Europe, member of NATO and involved in many essential security policy questions of the whole region and Europe. It shares its borders with Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro.

For all these reasons and more even for AMI being there would be of a certain importance because of being able to be confronted and informed directly about security policy problems, the situation around Croatia and the situation of religion, especially Catholicism in the Armed Forces.

The military bishop showed high interest and asked many questions about how to organize such a conference.

The president tried to clarify all these questions and will give more information in the upcoming days. Bishop Bogdan will receive all essential information and the background about the organization of our conference to facilitate a decision making process.

For these reasons a decision during the visit was not yet possible to be taken, but we hope that Croatia will be able to decide for taking over the responsibility hosting our general assembly in the upcoming year.

Already the evening before MajGen Sinn met again Kristina and Marinko Nikolić, AMI delegate of 2015, for exchanging thoughts about Europe and AMI. Both became special friends of AMI during the last two years.




MAY 18-22, 2017 – 59th International Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes

Lourdes, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, is the site of apparitions of the Virgin Mary that appeared to a young girl called Bernadette over 150 years ago. Each year it attracts about six million pilgrims.
Since in 1858 the 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous reported about several Marien’s phenomena, Lourdes developed to the worldwide most-visited Catholic place of pilgrimage.
The annual soldier’s pilgrimage takes a special position under the pilgrim’s travelling. After the end of the Second World War Lourdes became a place of the reconciliation.
“Dona Nobis Pacem – Grant us Peace” was the official theme for this year’s International Military Pilgrimage in Lourdes.
Under this slogan almost 20.000 servicemen and women from more than 40 nations and from all continents participated in this wonderful, spiritual event. They followed the invitation of the French military bishop to the 59th International Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes.
They experienced comradeship between healthy and sick persons, young and old found out living church anew and take remaining impressions with them back home.
Many politicians took the opportunity to share prayer, gospel and holy masses with the thousands of soldiers, amongst them the State President of Croatia, Ms. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, and, from Austria, the Minister of Defence, Mr. Hans Peter Doskozil.
It is always an unforgettable experience to be present together with soldiers of different armed forces at the holy mass and to pray together for world peace.
Also many friends of AMI, who participated in this pilgrimage, have met in the old tradition of cultivating camaraderie and sharing their experiences in a friendly atmosphere.
From the presidency of AMI the President, Major General Sinn, both Vice-Presidents and the Secretary-General were present. AMI executive committee used the opportunity of the pilgrimage to meet friends and interested people and to talk about our organization and the upcoming general assembly and conference in Rome September this year. It was for the presidency a special feeling knowing that it was last time assisting the pilgrimage in its responsibility.
For the first time the AMI flag was presented in Lourdes. During the Austrian-Swiss service in the field camp, the flag stood proudly alongside the flag of the Vatican, which was supported by the Swiss Guard.
every year the light procession was one of the highlights also this year again. Thousands of torches followed praying the Statue of the Virgin Mary, this was an impressive experience for all participants.
Another highlight was the confirmation of a young Swiss soldier during the Holy Mass in the field camp. You could almost feel the Holy Spirit.
As usual, the pilgrimage came to an end too fast and we had to say goodbye. Next year the sixtieth International Military Pilgrimage will take place, thus God wants, many pilgrims will be in Lourdes again.


MAY 2-3, 2017 – Second Preparatory Meeting for the General Assembly in Rome 

AMI President Norbert Sinn travelled, invited by the Italian Military Ordinariate, in the early days of May again to Rome for meetings with some of the most influential persons of the Vatican and the Italian Armed Forces.The first day of the visit started with talks to Col Domenico d’Ortenzi and Vicar General Mons Angelo Frigerio to update the preparations for the conference.

May 2, I met Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and later on that day Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

I informed them both about the aims of this year’s conference in Rome and invited them to speak to the audience. Both promised to come and talk, so we will be able to listen to them and receive inspiring food for our Christian military work.

May 3, I met Secretary of State of the Vatican Cardinal Pietro Parolin, having the opportunity to inform His Eminence about the goals and work of AMI. He took his time, showed big interest and posed several questions about our work. – And, most important, promised to support the presidency’s intentions.

Last, but not least, I had the opportunity to meet the Chief of Cabinet Office of the Ministry of Defence, Gen Alberto Rosso, to inform him as well about all our work and goals and to invite the Minister of Defence, Senator Roberta Pinotti, and the Chief of Defence Staff, General Claudio Graziano to come and to talk to the audience of AMI during our conference. He promised to inform the Minister and the Chief of Defence, but no lecture up to now is confirmed. So we will have to wait for an official answer by the Ministry of Defence.

At the end of the visit it was also possible to visit the HQ of the Land Forces, the chapel of the Land Forces and the court of Honour inside the building with a monument of the fallen soldiers of the Land Forces.


APRIL 4, 2017 – AMI Netherlands gathering: A successful first step.

At April 4th 2017, the Dutch AMI member ACOM organized a national gathering of AMI Netherlands. The meeting was held at the ecumenical training center of the Dutch military chaplaincy services in Soesterberg, the Netherlands. ACOM is an ecumenical Christian union for soldiers and civilians working at the Department of Defense in the Netherlands. ACOM is the legal successor of the Catholic union of St. Martin’s. In the 1990s ACOM took over the representation of AMI after a request of the then military bishop, Mgr. Dr. Ph. Baer.

The April gathering was the first national gathering of AMI ever.

The objectives were threefold.

First of all, the delegation wanted to look back at last year’s conference in Vught, the Netherlands. Secondly, of course it wanted to prepare for this year’s meeting in Rome. But the underlying main objective was to attempt to mobilize a network of Catholic soldiers in the Dutch military, to consider how new impulses may be given to the lay apostolate among military in the Netherlands.

In this respect it was an experiment to see if national gatherings can developed to vital meetings. Leon Verhulst, opened the meeting and welcomed all 40 participants. Head of delegation mr. Jan Kleian, a long time participant in AMI, summarized the history of AMI and ACOM’ s participation in it.

Secretary General Mrs. Nelleke Swinkels – who is also general manager of the Dutch National Catholic Homefront organization – provided a substantial survey of themes AMI has dealt with at the International level. She emphasized AMI’s combination of spiritual exchange, studying Catholic Social Teaching on war and Peace, and practical support for military chaplaincy services.

Chief of Roman Catholic Military Chaplaincy service, Mr. Tom van Vilsteren, explained the position and role of Catholic military chaplains and their contribution to lay apostolate. Professor dr. Fred van Iersel Ph.D., who is advisor for Ethics to ACOM too, provided an overview of recent developments in the approach of Just War and Non-Violence inside the Vatican.

At the end of the day, mr. Jan Kleian was very satisfied about the successful first meeting and expressed his commitment to continuation of this type of meetings. There seem to be good opportunities to widen the network of committed catholic soldiers in the Dutch military.

Prof. dr. Fred van Iersel


APRIL 2017 – HAPPY EASTER to all our members, friends and associates 


MARCH 19-23, 2017 – Preparatory Meeting of the General Assembly in Rome 

AMI president Norbert, secretary general Nelleke and deputy secretary general Jan, this time together with their spouse, travelled to Rome for meetings with Military Bishop Santo Marcianò and the Italian organizing Committee, consisting of Colonel Domenico d’Ortenzi and Lieutenant-Colonel Roberto Vergari.

During these two days many of the open questions could be brought to a solution.

Especially regarding the main topics of the conference, the place where it shall take place and the Holy Masses in different, imposing Roman churches, starting with the Pontifical Opening Holy Mass in the Santa Catharina Church of the Military Ordinariate of Italy (see fotos).

Theme of the AMI Conference 2017 will be: “Searching for roots”.

And we will deal with questions of:

  • Military Leadership
  • Democracy and Christian Values,
  • Erosion of International Law
  • What is truth?

Let us find the “Ten Commandments”, guidelines for soldiers, working for peace at home or on missions abroad, by researching the roots of our believe and faith. Of course under the umbrella of chapter 79 of the encyclical “Gaudium et Spes: Those who devote themselves to the military service of their country should regard themselves as the agents of security and freedom of peoples. As long as they fulfill this role properly, they are making a genuine contribution to the establishment of peace”.

The conference will take place at Circolo Ufficiali “Pio IX” Barracks, a military hotel nearby the train station Termini, a marvelous place in the center of Rome (see fotos). We try to arrange a general audience with our Holy Father on Wednesday and of course we will visit ancient Rome in the afternoon.

Some letters are send to excellent speakers to give us a lecture on the above mentioned themes so we are capable to work on it in our working groups.

One of the intended outputs shall be, as it is called before the “Ten Commandments for soldiers”.

We are convinced to put with our conference’s agenda our finger directly on the pulse of our world and its challenges for Christians.

The AMI Presidency hopes to welcome a lot of delegations from different country’s accompanied by their Military bishops.


FEBRUARY 11-12, 2017 – Aldershot/UK – Professor Fred van Iersel lecturing at the MMI supporters Weekend 

The MMI Supporters weekend, incorporating the AFCU Salisbury Regional Day takes place this weekend at St Pauls Salisbury and Sarum College with the theme Challenges in Military Ministry in 2017. See below for details. All the Regional Team Leaders and 3 guest speakers will speak on Saturday. Please pray for the whole weekend, and especially for the Saturday. Pray for people attending on the Saturday to grasp something of the MMI vision and to be encouraged in their own faith by what they hear and see. Pray for our guest speakers: Orthodox priest Dr Father Calin Samarghitan from Romania, Prof. Fred van Iersel representing Apostolat Militaire International (AMI) and from SASRA Executive Director Sqn Ldr (ret’d) Andrew Hill and also for our guests from MSO in Korea and ACCTS in the USA.

MMI lecture by Fred van Iersel



World Day of Peace has been celebrated in Germany in January every year since 1977 – and always together with soldiers from the Austrian AKS. This time two jubilees were celebrated: Fifty years World Day of Peace and the fortieth time that it takes place with a Holy Mass in Cologne.

On January 19, 2017 at 9 o′clock the 40th International Day of Peace took place in the Cologne Cathedral with Archbishop Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki and about 1.500 soldiers from Germany and different other countries.

According to the provisions of Pope Francis this year’s motto was: “Nonviolence – Style of a policy for peace”.

The Holy Mass was also attended by the German Chief of Defence, General Volker Wieker, MP Jens-Peter Nettekoven from North Rhine-Westphalia Parliament and Hans-Werner Bartsch, mayor of the city of Cologne.

Both Vice-Presidents, Col Fritz Aflenzer and WO Markus Stromberger, represented AMI in Cologne.

In his homily, the Cardinal denounced nationalism. “The more nationalism our political leaders are leading, the more vulnerable is peace for all”, Woelki said.

Furthermore, the cardinal noted: “No one knows how the political situation in Germany, Europe and the world will develop during the just started year 2017. One could only hope that universal ideas of international understanding would not be superimposed on nationalist tendencies.”

After the Holy Mass for Peace a meeting for all participating soldiers on the square in front of the Cathedral was organised as well as the traditional reception at the “Maternushaus”. Delegations of soldiers were invited to meet there with the Archbishop, the Military General Vicar, Monsignore Reinhold Bartmann, and other political, military and ecclesiastical persons responsible. The AMI Vice-President talked to Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki and thanked him for his homily. Of course, he also thanked the Military General Vicar for the invitation and the welcoming of the AMI delegation.

The Vice-Presidents took the opportunity and held talks with the representatives of the GKS and discussed questions about the actual situation of Christianity and Catholicism within the Armed Forces.



Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace

1. At the beginning of this New Year, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace to the world’s peoples and nations, to heads of state and government, and to religious, civic and community leaders. I wish peace to every man, woman and child, and I pray that the image and likeness of God in each person will enable us to acknowledge one another as sacred gifts endowed with immense dignity. Especially in situations of conflict, let us respect this, our “deepest dignity”,[1] and make active nonviolence our way of life.
This is the fiftieth Message for the World Day of Peace. In the first, Blessed Pope Paul VI addressed all peoples, not simply Catholics, with utter clarity. “Peace is the only true direction of human progress – and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms, nor conquests by violence, nor repressions which serve as mainstay for a false civil order”. He warned of “the danger of believing that international controversies cannot be resolved by the ways of reason, that is, by negotiations founded on law, justice, and equity, but only by means of deterrent and murderous forces.” Instead, citing the encyclical Pacem in Terris of his predecessor Saint John XXIII, he extolled “the sense and love of peace founded upon truth, justice, freedom and love”. [2] In the intervening fifty years, these words have lost none of their significance or urgency.
On this occasion, I would like to reflect on nonviolence as a style of politics for peace. I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values. May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life. When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking. In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.

A broken world

2. While the last century knew the devastation of two deadly World Wars, the threat of nuclear war and a great number of other conflicts, today, sadly, we find ourselves engaged in a horrifying world war fought piecemeal. It is not easy to know if our world is presently more or less violent than in the past, or to know whether modern means of communications and greater mobility have made us more aware of violence, or, on the other hand, increasingly inured to it.
In any case, we know that this “piecemeal” violence, of different kinds and levels, causes great suffering: wars in different countries and continents; terrorism, organized crime and unforeseen acts of violence; the abuses suffered by migrants and victims of human trafficking; and the devastation of the environment. Where does this lead? Can violence achieve any goal of lasting value? Or does it merely lead to retaliation and a cycle of deadly conflicts that benefit only a few “warlords”?
Violence is not the cure for our broken world. Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world. At worst, it can lead to the death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not of all.

The Good News

3. Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come” (Mk 7:21). But Christ’s message in this regard offers a radically positive approach. He unfailingly preached God’s unconditional love, which welcomes and forgives. He taught his disciples to love their enemies (cf. Mt 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (cf. Mt 5:39). When he stopped her accusers from stoning the woman caught in adultery (cf. Jn 8:1-11), and when, on the night before he died, he told Peter to put away his sword (cf. Mt26:52), Jesus marked out the path of nonviolence. He walked that path to the very end, to the cross, whereby he became our peace and put an end to hostility (cf. Eph 2:14-16). Whoever accepts the Good News of Jesus is able to acknowledge the violence within and be healed by God’s mercy, becoming in turn an instrument of reconciliation. In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi: “As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that you have greater peace in your hearts”.[3]
To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence. As my predecessor Benedict XVI observed, that teaching “is realistic because it takes into account that in the world there is too much violence, too much injustice, and therefore that this situation cannot be overcome except by countering it with more love, with more goodness. This ‘more’comes from God”.[4] He went on to stress that: “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behaviour but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the ‘Christian revolution’”.[5] The Gospel command to love your enemies (cf. Lk 6:27) “is rightly considered the magna carta of Christian nonviolence. It does not consist in succumbing to evil…, but in responding to evil with good (cf. Rom 12:17-21), and thereby breaking the chain of injustice”.[6]

More powerful than violence

4. Nonviolence is sometimes taken to mean surrender, lack of involvement and passivity, but this is not the case. When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she clearly stated her own message of active nonviolence: “We in our family don’t need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace – just get together, love one another… And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world”.[7] For the force of arms is deceptive. “While weapons traffickers do their work, there are poor peacemakers who give their lives to help one person, then another and another and another”; for such peacemakers, Mother Teresa is “a symbol, an icon of our times”.[8] Last September, I had the great joy of proclaiming her a Saint. I praised her readiness to make herself available for everyone “through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded… She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crimes – the crimes! – of poverty they created”.[9] In response, her mission – and she stands for thousands, even millions of persons – was to reach out to the suffering, with generous dedication, touching and binding up every wounded body, healing every broken life.
The decisive and consistent practice of nonviolence has produced impressive results. The achievements of Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in the liberation of India, and of Dr Martin Luther King Jr in combating racial discrimination will never be forgotten. Women in particular are often leaders of nonviolence, as for example, was Leymah Gbowee and the thousands of Liberian women, who organized pray-ins and nonviolent protest that resulted in high-level peace talks to end the second civil war in Liberia.
Nor can we forget the eventful decade that ended with the fall of Communist regimes in Europe. The Christian communities made their own contribution by their insistent prayer and courageous action. Particularly influential were the ministry and teaching of Saint John Paul II. Reflecting on the events of 1989 in his 1991 Encyclical Centesimus Annus, my predecessor highlighted the fact that momentous change in the lives of people, nations and states had come about “by means of peaceful protest, using only the weapons of truth and justice”.[10] This peaceful political transition was made possible in part “by the non-violent commitment of people who, while always refusing to yield to the force of power, succeeded time after time in finding effective ways of bearing witness to the truth”. Pope John Paul went on to say: “May people learn to fight for justice without violence, renouncing class struggle in their internal disputes and war in international ones”.[11]
The Church has been involved in nonviolent peacebuilding strategies in many countries, engaging even the most violent parties in efforts to build a just and lasting peace.
Such efforts on behalf of the victims of injustice and violence are not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone, but are typical of many religious traditions, for which “compassion and nonviolence are essential elements pointing to the way of life”.[12] I emphatically reaffirm that “no religion is terrorist”.[13] Violence profanes the name of God.[14] Let us never tire of repeating: “The name of God cannot be used to justify violence. Peace alone is holy. Peace alone is holy, not war!”[15]

The domestic roots of a politics of nonviolence

5. If violence has its source in the human heart, then it is fundamental that nonviolence be practised before all else within families. This is part of that joy of love which I described last March in my Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, in the wake of two years of reflection by the Church on marriage and the family. The family is the indispensable crucible in which spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, learn to communicate and to show generous concern for one another, and in which frictions and even conflicts have to be resolved not by force but by dialogue, respect, concern for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness.[16] From within families, the joy of love spills out into the world and radiates to the whole of society.[17] An ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence between individuals and among peoples cannot be based on the logic of fear, violence and closed-mindedness, but on responsibility, respect and sincere dialogue. Hence, I plead for disarmament and for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons: nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutual assured destruction are incapable of grounding such an ethics.[18] I plead with equal urgency for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children.
The Jubilee of Mercy that ended in November encouraged each one of us to look deeply within and to allow God’s mercy to enter there. The Jubilee taught us to realize how many and diverse are the individuals and social groups treated with indifference and subjected to injustice and violence. They too are part of our “family”; they too are our brothers and sisters. The politics of nonviolence have to begin in the home and then spread to the entire human family. “Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practise the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship. An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures that break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness”.[19]

My invitation

6. Peacebuilding through active nonviolence is the natural and necessary complement to the Church’s continuing efforts to limit the use of force by the application of moral norms; she does so by her participation in the work of international institutions and through the competent contribution made by so many Christians to the drafting of legislation at all levels. Jesus himself offers a “manual” for this strategy of peacemaking in the Sermon on the Mount. The eight Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3-10) provide a portrait of the person we could describe as blessed, good and authentic. Blessed are the meek, Jesus tells us, the merciful and the peacemakers, those who are pure in heart, and those who hunger and thirst for justice.
This is also a programme and a challenge for political and religious leaders, the heads of international institutions, and business and media executives: to apply the Beatitudes in the exercise of their respective responsibilities. It is a challenge to build up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers. It is to show mercy by refusing to discard people, harm the environment, or seek to win at any cost. To do so requires “the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process”.[20] To act in this way means to choose solidarity as a way of making history and building friendship in society. Active nonviolence is a way of showing that unity is truly more powerful and more fruitful than conflict. Everything in the world is inter-connected.[21] Certainly differences can cause frictions. But let us face them constructively and non-violently, so that “tensions and oppositions can achieve a diversified and life-giving unity,” preserving “what is valid and useful on both sides”.[22]
I pledge the assistance of the Church in every effort to build peace through active and creative nonviolence. On 1 January 2017, the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will begin its work. It will help the Church to promote in an ever more effective way “the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation” and concern for “migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture”.[23] Every such response, however modest, helps to build a world free of violence, the first step towards justice and peace.

In conclusion

7. As is traditional, I am signing this Message on 8 December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is the Queen of Peace. At the birth of her Son, the angels gave glory to God and wished peace on earth to men and women of good will (cf. Luke 2:14). Let us pray for her guidance.
“All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers”.[24] In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. “Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace”.[25]

From the Vatican, 8 December 2016


[1] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 228.
[2] PAUL VI, Message for the First World Day of Peace, 1 January 1968.
[3] “The Legend of the Three Companions”, Fonti Francescane, No. 1469.
[4] BENEDICT XVI, Angelus, 18 February 2007.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] MOTHER TERESA, Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1979.
[8] Meditation, “The Road of Peace”, Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, 19 November 2015.
[9] Homily for the Canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, 4 September 2016.
[10] No. 23.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Address to Representatives of Different Religions, 3 November 2016.
[13] Address to the Third World Meeting of Popular Movements, 5 November 2016.
[14] Cf. Address at the Interreligious Meeting with the Sheikh of the Muslims of the Caucasus and Representatives of Different Religious Communities, Baku, 2 October 2016.
[15]Address in Assisi, 20 October 2016.
[16] Cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, 90-130.
[17] Cf. ibid., 133, 194, 234.
[18] Cf. Message for the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, 7 December 2014.
[19] Encyclical Laudato Si’, 230.
[20] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 227.
[21] Cf. Encyclical Laudato Si’, 16, 117, 138.
[22] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 228.
[23] Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio instituting the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, 17 August 2016.
[24] Regina Coeli, Bethlehem, 25 May 2014.
[25] Appeal, Assisi, 20 September 2016.

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