More Lenten Reflections: All Quiet in the Pizzerias on the Western Front?

by Bobby Reyes

Piazza San Pietro Fountain at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican | Photo by Dennis Jarvis via Wikimedia Commons

Part IX: The Ukraine Crisis

On Sunday (March 20), Pope Francis sharpened his rhetoric against Russia’s shelling of Ukrainian civilians in its increasingly brutal invasion. “All this is inhuman!” the Pope said, according to a translation published by Vatican News, the Holy See’s media portal.

“Indeed, it is also sacrilegious,” the Pontiff continued, “because it goes against the sacredness of human life, especially against defenseless human life, which must be respected and protected, not eliminated, and which comes before any strategy! Let us not forget: It is a cruelty, inhuman and sacrilegious.”

As long as the Vatican’s position is simply rhetorical, President Putin will not stop his aggression against Ukraine. The Pope must not only preach but do what he says.

Also, last Sunday, this column suggested that the supreme leaders of the world’s top religions deliver relief goods, medicines, and medical equipment in convoys from Poland to the four corners of Ukraine. Perhaps like what happened in the Philippines in February 1986, soldiers and the police would not fire at the unarmed men of the cloth, pastors, ministers, nuns, other religious workers, medics, and logistics personnel — as what history recorded in the 1986 Filipino people’s peaceful revolution against the Dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The Archdiocese of Manila’s Cardinal Jaime Sin urged in a broadcast on the Radio Veritas (that the Catholic Church-owned) the people, especially all the Catholic priests, nuns, and lay leaders, to rally to protect the soldiers that abandoned the Filipino despot. History can repeat itself in Ukraine and perhaps even in Russia.

“The Archdiocese of Manila’s Cardinal Jaime Sin urged in a broadcast on the Radio Veritas (that the Catholic Church-owned) the people, especially all the Catholic priests, nuns, and lay leaders, to rally to protect the soldiers that abandoned the Filipino despot.”

And Pope Francis can do more. Perhaps the Vatican can now take this columnist’s proposal seriously on April 1, 2013, about the Vatican to Launch New “Pizza-Outreach Program Everywhere” (P.O.P.E.) in the Philippines.
The article, which was initially a satire, became a serious proposal in 2016 when this columnist returned to his hometown in Sorsogon to run for governor of the province. It became part of his economic platform for the Pope and his local bishops to turn parishes into soup kitchens and pizza parlors with salad bars.

Observers say it was a brilliant move, as some of the parishes in Europe and the United States attract few worshipers nowadays; there are no assigned priests in some of them, as the clergy is becoming an endangered species. Pope Francis probably believes, too, in the adage that “the easiest way to a man’s heart is through the stomach.”

Sorsogon is the 19th-poorest province in the Philippines, and it has 28 Catholic parishes doing their best to help feed the poor people and their equally-suffering parishioners. And the diocese leased part of the grounds of its Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral to a businessman that constructed commercial buildings and rented to restaurants and a pawn shop, among other commercial businesses. This journalist started a move to reform the Catholic Diocese of Sorsogon, as he cited the words of Jesus Christ, “Do not turn my father’s house into a marketplace” (John 2:16).

Perhaps it is time for the Vatican to organize pizzerias in the countries that have welcomed millions of Ukrainian refugees due to the Russian invasion. Pope Francis can persuade his fellow leaders of other Christian churches to join him and the more than one billion Catholics around the world to set up pizzerias and pantries to feed the bodies of Christians (and even agnostics among the refugees), aside from ministering to their souls in Eastern Europe. The church leaders can then replicate the pizzerias in all nations where there is poverty — the heart and soul and the body.

The ongoing crisis about the Ukrainian invasion by the Russians and the plight of now tens of millions of refugees is the present “story of humanity across nations.”

Perhaps the Pontiff may like to do a 21st-century edition of the 1930 classic, “All Quiet on the Western Front,” as this 1979 remastered version. The 1930 film presents the details of WWI from a German point of view. Ultimately, it is a story of humanity across nations.

The ongoing crisis about the Ukrainian invasion by the Russians and the plight of tens of millions of refugees is the present “story of humanity across nations.” And worldwide, especially in Christian parishes in the United States like the St. Denis Catholic Church of Diamond Bar (CA), second collections are being done as financial aid for the Ukrainian refugees. It is now a question for Pope Francis and the other religious leaders to do more.

Is there a better way to help feed the refugees now — and even the poorest of the poor in the host countries — with the suggested “Papa Francis pizza” for a start?

As the 2022 Lenten Season progresses, this column will focus on the suggested reforms presented on November 9, 2021, when this writer penned: Religion and Politics: Why Church Reforms Make Sense Socio-economically.

On November 6, 2021, this columnist wrote this op-ed piece: “Reinventing” First the Church’s Socioeconomic Policies and Then Its Theology.” Next week, I will also feature its salients points again in this column.

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