I love lists for some reason, and so fell delightedly on the current edition of Time magazine, which is devoted to a list of the 100 most influential people in the world. On the cover is Beyoncé, the popular and respected chanteuse, in a curiously unflattering photograph. It is interesting that Beyoncé makes the cover of Time, and no doubt there is much food for thought there, but I would rather comment on the two people on the list whom I immediately recognised as Catholics.
The first is Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, who lives and works in Gulu, northern Uganda. The magazine provides us with a little essay on her work by Forest Whitaker, the actor who played Idi Amin, and who knows something about the country. Apparently, Forest has narrated a film about her, which is good, as Sister Rosemary and all the nuns like her deserve publicity for their work. I myself have been to St Monica’s, the place she runs for girls who had been kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army, and to the school for boys nearby.
The boys are all ex-child soldiers, the girls have all been raped; they have all seen unimaginable horrors, but the atmosphere in these Catholic institutions in Gulu is one of kindness, calm and love. Sister Rosemary and her co-workers are building a civilisation of love, from scratch. It was amazingly wonderful to see the Gospel in action in Gulu. I wish everyone could see it. And it is not just in Gulu that these things are happening: there are religious all over Africa, and on other continents too, doing similar work.
Forest Whitaker’s conclusion made me sit up: “For women with unwanted children born out of conflict, she [Sister Rosemary] allows them to become loving mothers at last. The traumas she heals are unfathomable, but the reach of her love is boundless.”
The implication of those beautiful words is clear. Unwanted children become wanted. Hatred is conquered by love. Abortion is not the answer. But while we are on this subject on nuns doing good work and building the kingdom, what makes Sister Rosemary special makes thousands of nuns special, all over the world. I have said it before, but it may need saying again: I have never ever met a bad nun. And I have met lots of nuns!
The other instantly recognisable Catholic on the list is of course Pope Francis. And here the essay is written by no less a person that Barack Obama. You can read the President’s kind words about the Pope here.
It would be churlish not to be pleased by Mr Obama’s generous words, but these words could be applied to any Pontiff of recent times, and indeed long before recent times. This is not to say that Pope Francis has not brought special gifts to the chair of Peter, but so did Paul VI and Pius V, to take but two pontiffs noted for their humility and love of poverty.
As for Mr Obama’s words re “inclusion”, well, this is the Catholic Church, is it not, and the “inclusion” agenda is part of our DNA. And let us not forget that the love of God, and our moral obligations to each other, includes every single human being, from conception to natural death. All. Without exceptions. As Sister Rosemary knows from her everyday experience, and as the world still needs to learn.
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