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Published: Saturday, 5/2/2009

Priest to speak on nonviolent response to terrorism

BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
The Rev. Louie Vitale, 76, will
speak at Blessed Sacrament
Parish on Tuesday. The Rev. Louie Vitale, 76, will speak at Blessed Sacrament Parish on Tuesday.
NOT BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

Getting handcuffed and hauled off to jail is old hat for the Rev. Louie Vitale.

"I've been arrested at least a couple hundred times," the Franciscan priest said with a laugh.

He estimates he has spent a total of a year and a half behind bars, and every one of his arrests has been for the same purpose: to promote peace.

The 76-year-old priest and peace activist will give a talk in Toledo Tuesday night titled "The Nonviolent Response to Terrorism." The lecture at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church is being sponsored by Pax Christi at Corpus Christi University Parish and the Tiffin Area Pax Christi.

A former Air Force officer with a doctorate in sociology, Father Vitale has spent most of the four and a half decades since his 1963 ordination raising awareness for peace and trying to stop war and violence.

In 1989, he co-founded the nonprofit organization Pace e Bene, naming the group after an Italian greeting meaning "Peace and All Good" that was used by St. Francis of Assisi.

In a phone interview while traveling to Columbia, Mo., Father Vitale said he saw a need for an organization such as Pace e Bene after a series of peace protests left him and his colleagues searching for more long-term and effective ways to work for a peaceful world.

"We were involved in a lot of things at the time, especially Central American peace efforts and to stop nuclear testing," he said. "OK, we go and take up various causes and demonstrations, but what are we doing in the long run to change the situation? How do we reverse things from the kind of 'peace through military might' narrative to 'peace through justice?'•"

In Pace e Bene's 20-year history, it has held 600 workshops and trained 25,000 people to promote peace and justice through nonviolence.

The group's headquarters is in Oakland, Calif., and it has offices in Las Vegas, Chicago, New England, Washington, Montreal, Australia, and Nigeria.

Father Vitale was imprisoned from October, 2007, to March, 2008, after crossing the line at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., where Army intelligence officers are trained in "advance interrogation" techniques.

He also has been arrested twice for crossing the line at the School of Americas in Fort Benning, Ga., on a three-month Circle of Peace Speaking Tour that began in March, but in early April took time out to participate in a 10-day vigil outside Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada, about 40 miles north of Las Vegas.

Father Vitale said U.S. drone planes equipped with laser-guided missiles are controlled at Creech for surveillance and attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

"They are driving people to the Taliban because these drones blew up a school in Pakistan" he said. "These 14-year-old kids are being recruited as suicide bombers because they're so upset at the way these drone bombers are tearing up their homes and schools."

The priest went to Iran in February as one of six members of a Civilian Diplomacy Delegation.

"It seems to be so hard for leaders to sit down and talk to each other," he said. "This was citizens' diplomacy. [Iran President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and [President] Obama and [Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton need to get in there and talk to the people."

He said that after traveling around Iran he believes the Iranian people "don't want war, they want peace."

Father Louie Vitale will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, 4227 Bellevue Rd. Admission is free and an offering will be taken.

- David Yonke



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