Just Gospel: Pope Francis Prays for Abolition of Torture

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

June 20, 2023

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Kathleen Murphy offers a ‘Just Gospel’ blog post each month reflecting on Pope Francis’ Prayer Intention and includes any other specific focus of her religious community for the year. Find in this reflection the Pope’s June prayer intention that the international community may commit in a concrete way to ensuring the abolition of torture and guarantee support to victims and their families and words from our Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity morning prayer that focus on suffering. 

June, month of the Sacred Heart leads us to consider the words of our morning prayer which say …His passion is recalled… The Sacred Heart of Jesus is open and wounded before us. It is open in order to pour out His great love. He does this each time we recall that great act of love present in His passion and again in the Eucharist. At each altar the same sacrifice is borne out for us personally. Again, He gives Himself completely—for me! He who is the unfathomable God enters that thin bit of bread so that He can enter into me, dwell with me and become part of me. What wondrous love is this!

At times we prefer to dwell on the great gift of love that comes to us in Jesus and we prefer to put aside the remembrance of His suffering. We prefer to put aside an awareness of His suffering in His Mystical Body today. Pope Francis helps us to avoid that with his intention which states: “That the international community may commit in a concrete way to ensuring the abolition of torture and guarantee support to victims and their families.”

This concept of torture seems far removed from our day-to-day living, yet the universal Church knows the need to weigh this sad reality. As far as Catholic values are concerned, the position regarding torture is quite clear. The Catholic Catechism considers and condemns torture under the broader rubric of “You Shall Love Your Neighbor as Yourself” and the 5th Commandment “You shall not kill”. Section 2297 of the Catechism states explicitly that “Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.”

So, that is what we are to hold and believe regarding torture. How might we see this teaching in human terms? Sister Dianna Ortiz, an Ursuline Sister endured such evils in Guatemala in 1989. She survived and became an advocate for victims of torture around the world. In her book, The Blindfold’s Eyes, she writes: “But no one ever fully recovers—not the one who is tortured, and not the one who tortures. Every time he tortures, the torturer reinforces the idea that we cannot trust one another, and that we cannot trust the world we live in.

The lessons of my torture didn’t stick; I was supposed to have learned that I am powerless, that nothing I say or do can stop the torture. I was supposed to have learned despair. But I can’t help hoping. I have faith in the unexpected, the miraculous, the power of people working together and of God working through us. I have to offer all I have and believe and hope it’s enough. And I do.”

On Sister Dianna’s return to the United States, she spent time at a recovery center. About this she says, As time passed, I forgave God for not working some dramatic miracle undoing my past. I learned that God was indeed working a quiet unobtrusive miracle, healing me through other people—through small gestures, smiles, hugs, and kind words. These began to counteract the power of the torturers’ smirks and punches.

May our prayers be that presence of a healing heart of God to those who suffer from this evil in our world.


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