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Will Pope Francis Be 2015 Nobel Peace Laureate?

United Nations Photo-cc

Visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to the United Nations

John Burger - published on 10/07/15

If he does, it would be a first. But he has expressed his disinterest in the honor

Will Pope Francis become the first Roman Pontiff in history to win a Nobel Peace Prize? We will know on Friday, when the Nobel Peace Prize Committee announces its decision at 11am Central European Time (5am EDT).

If the Pope had anything to say about it, however, the prize would go to someone else. He has said in the past that he is not interested in the honor. As Crux explained:

During a 2014 interview in the Argentinian magazine Viva, Francis refused to even speculate about what he might do in case he’s awarded the prize, which comes with a $1 million cash award. “I’ve never accepted honorary titles,” he said. “I don’t really think about those things, and even less about what I might do with that money. The thing is, regardless of any award, I believe we should all be committed to global peace. We should all give peace a chance.” Francis has, however, said who he believes should win it: the women of Paraguay. He said so in 2014 to Carlos and Rodolfo Luna, two Argentine friends visiting him at the Vatican. During his trip to Latin America in July, which included a stop in Paraguay, he repeated the praise. “Here I would like especially to mention you, the women, wives, and mothers of Paraguay,” he said, “who at great cost and sacrifice were able to lift up a country defeated, devastated, and laid low by war.”

If the Pope does win, it’s unlikely that he would travel to Oslo to accept the award, Crux reported, citing anonymous Vatican officials.

The Nobel committee says there are 273 candidates for the Peace Prize, but it does not release any names. Many people believe front runners include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for her willingness to accept hundreds of thousands of Syrian and other refugees into Germany; US Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who hammered out a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, and a Vatican-based Eritrean priest, Father Mussie Zerai, who set up a hotline for refugees from his country making the perilous journey to Europe.

But those rooting for Pope Francis cite his role in bringing together Cuban and American negotiators leading to a warming in relations between the two Cold War rivals.

Other factors favoring Francis include his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, which pointed out how uncontrolled climate change can contribute to conditions leading to conflict; his speech to the United Nations General Assembly last month, and his appeals on other social matters, such as the redistribution of wealth, immigration, religious persecution and corruption.

When Pope Francis was in the United States late last month, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) circulated a letter to colleagues to nominate Francis for the award.

“Pope Francis has been a powerful advocate for peace, urging an end to conflict and support for constitutive ties among nations,” the letter states. “[His] commitment to nonviolence, which the Pope has put into practice every day through his words and actions, is at the core of the principles behind the Nobel Peace Prize.”

The Jerusalem Post pointed out that Pope Francis has repeatedly called for peace in the Middle East:

In May 2014, he visited the Palestinian Territories and Israel, making an unscheduled stop at the barrier separating Israel and the West Bank. The Pontiff descended from his popemobile when it drove past the hulking grey concrete wall that Israel erected 11 years ago during a Palestinian uprising that divides Bethlehem from the adjacent Jerusalem….Pope Francis made a plea for peace at the start of his pilgrimage to Bethlehem, believed to be by Christians the birthplace of Jesus, saying the prolonged Israel-Palestinian conflict had become unacceptable. A day earlier, Francis had offered prayers at the site in Jordan where tradition says Jesus was baptized. He then made an urgent appeal for an end to the civil war in Syria. “We are very touched by the tragedies and pains that are especially provoked by the conflicts in the Middle East. I’m thinking first and foremost of the beloved Syria. Begun as a fight between brothers that has lasted three years now and has produced many victims forcing millions to become refugees,” the pope told an audience at a church near the Jordan River.

After his trip to the Holy Land, the Pope hosted Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, at the Vatican in a prayer for peace.

Francis has been nominated for the prize before. Pope St. John Paul II was also nominated quite often during his pontificate but never won. Some believe that is due partly to opposition to some Church teaching by some committee members. A former member of the prize committee, Lutheran Bishop Gunnar Staalseth of Oslo, for example, vowed in 2001 that no pope would ever win the award unless the Church changed its teaching on contraception.

The last time a Catholic won the Nobel Peace Prize was in 2004, when it went to Kenyan environmental and political activist Wangari Maathai. Maathai, an alumnus of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, was the first African woman to receive the prize.

Other Catholics who have won include Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Solidarity founder and former Polish President Lech Walesa, East Timorese Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and that country’s president, José Ramos-Horta; Irish politician John Hume and peace activist Mairead Maguire; former South Korea president Kim Daejung, and Belgian Dominican Father Georges Pire.

Pope Francis
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