On the eve of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Pope John Paul II sent special emissary Cardinal Pio Laghi to Washington, D.C. to make a desperate, last-minute plea to President George W. Bush not to launch a new war.
Back in Rome, the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See hosted a lecture series using Catholic Just War theory to promote the morality of waging a "preventive war" against Iraq. When the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican James Nicholson invited conservative Catholic thinker Michael Novak to make the case for war, the event prompted backlash from 60 major American Catholic leaders.
For Marie Dennis, senior adviser and past co-president of Pax Christi International, the incident — which heightened diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and the Holy See — is representative of exactly the sort of scenario a Vatican ambassador should avoid.
Yet as President Joe Biden searches for his new Vatican diplomat, Dennis and other experts say the world's smallest state and one of its last superpowers find themselves well situated to have a relationship marked by collaboration, rather than contention.
"If you consider Catholic social teaching, the encyclicals and teachings of Pope Francis and where Biden seems to be trying to go with policy," said Dennis, "then there's a lot of common ground."
As the Apache people sought to protect and preserve the Oak Flat area in Arizona from a potential copper mine, they have drawn support from other Native American tribes, conservation organizations like the Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity, progressive faith groups and politicians, including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Recently, it has also attracted the attention of conservative religious liberty scholars.
In the past three months, more than a dozen experts on religious freedom, including Helen Alveré, Robert George and Richard Garnett, have joined several amicus briefs supporting the Apache's legal case. And in February, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty became counsel in a federal appeal for the Apache Stronghold, the nonprofit community organization working to defend Chi'chil Biłdagoteel, the Apache term for Oak Flat, and other sites considered sacred by the Apache people and other Native Americans.
The struggle over Oak Flat began in 2014, when Arizona legislators, including Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, attached a land-swap rider to the annual National Defense Authorization Act that approved the transfer of 2,400 acres in the Tonto National Forest, which includes Oak Flat, to Resolution Copper, an Australian mining company.
The San Carlos Apache Tribe and its backers say the copper mine will create a 2-mile-long, 1,000-foot-deep crater that will destroy Oak Flat and make it impossible for tribal members to pray and conduct ceremonial rituals on the land.
- In March, the Biden administration pulled back an environmental review that had cleared the way for Oak Flat to be turned over to Resolution Copper.
- The Apache believe Oak Flat is a "blessed place" where Ga'an — guardians or messengers between the people and Usen, the creator — dwell.
- At Global Sisters Report,
read about how a sister and Salesian missionaries are helping refugees
in Uganda navigate ration cuts and food shortages by training them to
- In an online message to grassroots community organizers, Pope Francis criticized a modern form of politician that he said "turns their back on the poor," and he laid out his vision for a "politics with a capital P."