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Sunday, March 10, 2013

London Free Press suggests new pope learn from Mennonites

As a former Sunday school teacher I read the headline in The London Free Press with interest: Does the choice of a pope really matter to those who follow Christ? What made this opinion piece of increased interest to me was the author: Larry Cornies.

Larry Cornies is a gracious gentleman. An intelligent, well-respected news reporter, editor and university professor. Cornies is also a Mennonite.

As I read Cornies' piece, I felt I was reading a take on Roman Catholicism as viewed from a Mennonite perspective. Near the end of the article, Cornies quotes words found on a Mennonite Central Committee poster without even once openly referring to the Mennonite connection.

"A Modest Proposal for Peace: Let the Christians of the world agree that they will not kill each other."

Cornies tells his readers: "Somewhere in the bowels of one of the historic peace churches a few decades ago, two church administrators penned what they called a modest proposal for peace."

Cornies suggests the noble sentiment expressed on the poster would make a good jumping off point for the new Roman Catholic pope. "It would be a noble and bold place for a new pontiff to begin — and to eventually extend that mission to other world faiths as well."

What Cornies is of course suggesting, using opaque words and phrases, is that the new pope should embrace Mennonite thinking, support conscientious objectors and consider alternatives to military service.

Dare I go so far as to say Cornies is recommending the new pope become a peace witness?

How many London Free Press readers know that "Historic Peace Churches" refers to three specific church groups: Mennonites, Quakers and Church of the Brethren, according to the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online.

Cornies' writing is brilliant. The inspiration for this piece is only opaque to those who "are unfamiliar with theological terms" or "most people", as the writer points out when he quotes British theologian Stuart Murray.

The writing may be brilliant but it left me uneasy. Shouldn't a professional writer clearly reveal the underlying foundation of his/her position? Cornies does not once directly mention the important role played by the Mennonite Church in his thinking.

Yet, Cornies' wishful thinking may not be all that farfetched.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI commended the Mennonites for their long standing witness to peace on receiving the first Mennonite World Conference delegation ever to go to Rome. Benedict said: "Despite centuries of division . . . we hold many convictions in common. We both emphasize that our work for peace is rooted in Jesus Christ . . . "

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