Earlier today, Pope Francis celebrated Mass for over one million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In his homily, he returned to the theme of peace over violence that has thus far characterized this pilgrimage. In her report for Vatican News, Deborah Castellano Lubov reported:
With Jesus, the Pope insisted, “evil never wins, evil never has the last word.” Those who belong to Jesus, he continued, “must never yield to sorrow,” nor “permit resignation and fatalism to take hold” of them.
“Even though that atmosphere reigns all around us,” he said, “it must not be so for us.”
“In a world disheartened by violence and war, Christians must be like Jesus,” he added. “As if to insist on the point, Jesus told the disciples once more: Peace be with you!”
The Pope said we are called to make our own “this inspired and prophetic message of peace” and proclaim it before the world.
The joy on the faces of our brother and sister Catholics gathered at the Ndolo airport in Kinshasa is electric — despite being citizens of a developing nation torn apart by war. Their faith clearly animates them, and many of them have traveled great distances to see Pope Francis and to worship Jesus Christ as a people together with their Holy Father. Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service posted a tweet of some of the children who were about to receive their first communion at this Mass. Imagine the memories these children will have!
Just some of the hundreds of first Communion kids waiting to welcome #PopeFrancis pic.twitter.com/qMQQO1LNbx
— Cindy Wooden (@Cindy_Wooden) February 1, 2023
All of this somehow seems a world away from the conflicts and scandals of the Church in the West. Much of this gets lost whenever we find ourselves caught up in liturgy wars, culture wars, secular politics, debates over Amoris Laetitia or the German bishops or the death penalty or the Synod on Synodality. These debates sadly shape the way far too many of us approach the Catholic faith these days.
Today marks the fifth anniversary of the launch of Where Peter Is. It was a project started as a group blog by four lay contributors who wanted to help promote and defend Pope Francis’s teachings against his critics and accusers. More importantly, we wanted to promote the pope’s vision for the Church and his mission of renewal and reform. Since then, many Catholics have shown their appreciation for our work, and they have enabled us to grow. In the past five years, well over a hundred writers have contributed their work to this site (I’ve lost count). Catholics from nearly every imaginable background and walk of life have written for us or allowed us to share their work with our readers.
Some of these contributions have been truly extraordinary. We have published articles by Catholics who have shared their journeys and bared their souls so that they might evangelize others and help them to grow in faith. Others have tackled tough moral questions and waded into doctrinal controversies in order to help restore unity in the Church. Still more have helped expose spiritual abuse and related their own experiences of being freed from dangerous movements and ideologies. I am grateful for my small role in helping others share their stories of faith and personal testimony with the world.
My dear friend and podcast partner Jeannie Gaffigan always says that Pope Francis shares the “pure Gospel message of Jesus Christ.” We endeavor to share the same good news by providing a platform for faithful Catholics to share their ideas and inspirations, their hopes and struggles. Our work will be more important than ever through the global synodal process in 2023 and 2024, and on through the jubilee year in 2025.
Looking forward, we have some decisions to make. In recent months, I’ve personally been shouldering most of the load of keeping the site running — writing, editing, posting — and I have a pile of outside submissions piling up that I haven’t had a chance to edit (sorry to everyone who has been waiting). I haven’t had much time to work on administering the site, scheduling, or fundraising. And the business and administrative side of the house has long been neglected. I’ve been putting off several projects (including writing a book) for a very long time and I would like to re-start the podcast. But doing so requires time that I don’t currently have.
We need to re-focus. We are trying to come up with ideas about how to keep the site going. If we are going to keep up our current pace, that will require both financial support and administrative expertise. I never set out to be an entrepreneur, and one thing I’ve learned in the past five years is that I’m not cut out to be one. You will be hearing more about this soon, but in the meantime, please pray for us as we discern the next steps. Please consider donating to WPI via Patreon (link below) or PayPal (link on the right-hand column).
Today, however is a day of joy and gratitude. We are joyful that Jesus Christ has redeemed us and because he has blessed us with Pope Francis as our shepherd. I am grateful for this website, all who have contributed to it, and all who have supported us along the way. I am also grateful for the constructive criticism we’ve received. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Image: Screenshot of choir and congregation. From Vatican News footage of the papal Mass today at at the Ndolo airport in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.
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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.