Easter: The season of faith
The Easter season is the holiest and truly most reflective periods in the Christian faith and when our values and beliefs are foremost on our mind. I recall attending daily religious ceremonies at the Vatican during the Easter season when I was U.S. ambassador and listening to Pope John Paul II, and even traveling to other regions in the world and meeting other prominent religious leaders. I often heard them stress the critical importance of people demonstrating courage and hope in their lives, which was truly an inspiring experience for me.
From the pope to Christian leaders in Egypt, Turkey, Syria, the Ukraine, and Bosnia along with world diplomats, I heard it repeatedly stressed that prayer was important, but participation in civic affairs was critical to political and economic stability in the world. I have to admit that since returning home to America, I constantly think about those moving messages and experiences. But I also think about why so many good people of faith and strong religious beliefs pretty much ignore those messages I heard so clearly and often from these world religious leaders.
Their message was consequential and unmistakable, but rarely reported in the American press. Pope John Paul II had experienced the disaster of Hitler's Nazi troops in his native Poland and then, immediately thereafter, the ruthless anti-God communist dictator Josef Stalin. His people had to live with that persecution most of his early life. I also got to know and listen to all of the Christian Orthodox patriarchs -- from Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople to Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow to Patriarch Irine of Serbia -- as well as many Jewish religious leaders from throughout the Middle East, Europe and Israel. I would talk to them about political vigilance, and even worked with them closely when the U.S. government supported full diplomatic relations between the State of Israel and The Holy See. Obviously, the horrors of Christian and Jewish brutality were major factors in their history.
But in light of shocking news on Sunday about the brutal bombing which massacred at least 45 Christians while attending Palm Sunday Mass in two Coptic churches in Egypt (which ISIS terrorists claimed responsibility for) along with other horrendous recent world events like the deadly chemical bombings of children in Syria, rapes of young girls, bombings of churches and the torture of Catholics, I am deeply concerned about the silence in America. Our political parties seem more concerned about "gotcha politics" than working to address this "modern day genocide against Christians," and not working for the common good and world stability.
Yes, I learned that informed and committed people are key to our nation's and the world's safety. I've witnessed over the years that experienced and professional diplomats, dedicated military and U.S. Intelligence officials are vital, but it's the responsibility of American voters to put competent patriotic public officials in positions of trust and authority.
But while attending Mass on Saturday afternoon and listening to Father Robert Casey at St. Augustine's Cemetery Chapel in South Boston, we heard him remind us about our Catholic values and traditions. While we must not let political events and division take our attention away from our faith, we must also not let special interest groups intimidate us into not standing up for what we believe -- whether it's here in Boston or in Egypt.
We were taught by our parents and Church that Easter is the "Season of Hope." But it's also the season of faith. It's time for people of faith and love to come together and reflect on our values and religious beliefs and demand that they be reflected in our nation's public policies. We constantly see partisan ideologues angrily sniping at each other on TV, while the national media inflames this division.
Has our country changed that much that the traditional values of faith and family, which our country was founded upon, are on no longer important? We owe it to our children and our country to speak out, not in an angry, self-serving and partisan way, but with a united and unafraid voice that promotes the "common good" for all Americans, not just the elite and powerful.
Maybe this Easter season can be is a season to hope again. My South Boston neighbors certainly heard Father Casey's inspiring Palm Sunday homily about hope yesterday. I was inspired and encouraged by it.
- Raymond L. Flynn is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and Mayor of Boston.