Opponents of Iraq War to Risk Arrest at Federal Building in Worcester
On Wednesday, March 19, 2008, the fifth anniversary of the most recent escalation of the 17-year long American war on Iraq, local residents will enter the US Federal Building on Main Street in Worcester to offer Catholic prayers for an immediate end to the war. Their prayer comes as the culmination of a 43-day Lenten prayer, fast, and vigil carried out in conjunction with people in 11 other US cities, including Des Moines, Iowa, Buffalo and Rochester, New York.
This Lenten campaign for and end to the Iraq War was inspired by the example of Franz Jagerstatter, the recently beatified Austrian Catholic who was executed for refusing to participate in an unjust war. The Worcester participants have attended midday Mass at Saint Paul’s Cathedral each weekday and then vigiled outside the church before walking to the US Federal Building where they vigiled on the sidewalk. Each day they have spoken to the US marshals inside the building to introduce the various participants in the vigil, to discuss their opposition to the war, and to learn the feelings of the marshals about the war. They have also distributed prayer cards for Blessed Jagerstatter at Cathedral and Federal Building and held a banner quoting Pope John Paul II’s words that the Iraq war was “unjust, immoral, and illegal.”
On March 19, the group will attend the 7:10 a.m. Mass at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, vigil outside the church, and then vigil outside the Federal Building. When the building opens, a group of between 3 and 7 individuals will enter it and gather to the right of the main door to offer Catholic prayers of penance for the sin of the war and the rosary for its immediate end. The prayer will last approximately 30 minutes, but, since the prayer is being offered inside the Federal Building, it could lead to the group’s arrest.
In a letter to the US marshals, members of the group quoted Worcester’s second Catholic bishop, Bernard J. Flanagan, who said, “There are times and situations when civil disobedience may not only be justifiable, but may actually be a duty.” Participant Ken Hannaford-Ricardi, who has been to Iraq three times said, “It’s time to remind the American people to regain their consciences and stop the suffering we’ve imposed on people of Iraq.” Participant Tom Lewis was one of nine Catholics, including two priests and a nun, who burned draft files in 1968 in a dramatic protest against the Vietnam War. Their action captured international attention and helped galvanize many people to protest against the war. For his civil disobedience, Tom served three years in federal prison. Participant Scott Schaeffer-Duffy, who has also been to Iraq, said, “With over a million Iraqis and 4,000 Americans killed since 1991 and countless thousands horribly wounded, we join the Vatican in denouncing this unjust war and calling for its immediate end.”