Newspaper Page Text
PAGE 9 — The Southern Cross, May 24,1990
"Pilgrimage Not Just Protest But Journey Of Hope"
MARCH IN MACON — Participants in the National Pilgrimage for
Aboliton of the Death Penalty are pictured in Macon (May 12) enroute
to Mercer University for an educational forum. (Photo by Mary Ann
BY RITA McINERNEY
GRIFFIN, Ga. (CNS) — She has been
present at three executions, Sister Helen
Prejean told participants in the National
Pilgrimage tor Abolition of the Death
Penalty as they paused May 16 at Sacred
Heart Church in Griffin.
“They are not heroes,” she admitted of
her executed friends. “I don’t condone
what they did. But they died as sons of
Sister Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of
Medaille who was coordinator of the
400-mile pilgrimage, called the effort “not
just a protest but a journey of hope.” The
march began May 5 at the site of Florida’s
electric chair in Starke and ended in Atlan
ta May 18.
In the mixture of people participating,
Sister Prejean said, “there is hope for the
country.”A core group of participants
walked the entire route, joined by others
along the way.
The pilgrimage ended the same day
Dalton Prejean, given the death penalty
for the murder of a state trooper, was ex
ecuted in the electric chair at the state
penitentiary in Angola, La. Prejean, no
relation to the nun who organized the
march, was the focus of an international
campaign to stop the execution.
The march culminated “Lighting the
Torch of Conscience,” a yearlong cam
paign sponsored by Amnesty Interna
tional, the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference, the National Coalition to
Abolish the Death Penalty, the American
Friends Service Committee and the Na
tional Interreligious Task Force on
Taking part were relatives of victims,
women with husbands or sons on death
row, former inmates, ministers, priests,
religious and young people. Twelve days
earlier when they began their journey they
had been strangers; now they were en
thusiastic, tolerant comrades.
Hikers appeared sunburned and healthy.
Most were walking 10 to 20 miles a day,
sleeping on wooden floors in country
churches or in state parks. To avoid con
frontations, overnight locations were not
The prayer service at Sacred Heart of
fered several marchers a chance to ad
dress people from the Griffin community
and from Atlanta.
The Rev. Fred D. Taylor of the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference in Atlan
ta told participants that he was “making a
witness for those who do not have a voice
... the disposables to whom society has
said, ‘you do not have basic rights.’”
Bill Pelke said his grandmother was
murdered five years ago. Three years ago,
he told his listeners, “Jesus touched my
heart and taught me that love and
forgiveness was the right answer.”
An ex-prisoner, William Gall, now
associated with the American Friends Ser
vice Committee, said the church was im
portant “in my reintegration into the com
munity. ... God is not through with me yet.’ ’
Magdaleno Rose-Avila, a former farm
worker, said, “We come looking for
justice.... The dream that keeps me going
is what it would be like without the death
This 12th day of the journey had been
long, beginning 20 miles away in Jackson,
where death row is located at the Georgia
Diagnostic and Classification Center.
Sister Prejean said one or two people in
Griffin had waved small U.S. flags at them
as their way of expressing disapproval.
Others gave the thumbs-down signal.
In an interview before the service, she
told The Georgia Bulletin, newspaper of
the Atlanta Archdiocese, that she has been
involved with fighting the death penalty,
with the poor and with victims of crimes in
New Orleans since 1980.
She first became involved with death
row inmates when she wrote to Elmo
Patrick on death row in Louisiana. When
she found he had no one, she began visiting
him. “I ended up seeing him die. His last
words were to me,” said Sister Prejean.
For her the pilgrimage across Florida
and Georgia — states leading the nation in
numbers of executions since the death
penalty was restored in 1976 — is a way of
telling the Catholic bishops that “we’re
The U.S. bishops issued a statement in
1980 calling for abolition of the death
Sister Prejean believes people “are
beginning to learn how selective” the
death penalty is in the United States.
Of 20,000 persons who commit homicide
each year, about 200 are given the death
sentence. All are poor, she said. “Eighty-
five percent of the time the victim is white.
When black kills black they don’t even pro
secute,” she claimed.
.The death sentence, in her view, “is not
worthy of us as a country.”
Two Bishops' Groups Collect $4.8 Million For Disaster Relief
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Two organiza
tions affiliated with U.S. bishops have col
lected $4.8 million to help victims of last
fall’s Hurricane Hugo and the California
The American Board of Catholic Mis
sions, which usually aids home missions,
has disbursed $2.6 million to the Arch
dioceses of San Juan and the dioceses of
Caguas and Arecibo, Puerto Rico, St.
Thomas in the Virgin Islands, Charleston,
S.C., Charlotte, N.C., and St.
John’s-Basseterre in Antigua.
Sixty-one U.S. dioceses contributed
money for hurricane relief from the board,
which is a standing committee of the Na
tional Conf erence of Catholic Bishops. The
largest allocation, $895,000, went to the
Diocese of St. Thomas.
The National Catholic Disaster Relief
Committee, organized by the NCCB and
Pope's Visit To Malta
(Continued from page 1)
cultural leaders and the nation’s youth.
He will greet an ecumenical gathering at
St. Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina. While only
about 4,000 Maltese are not baptized
Catholic, the nation has a Muslim com
munity and several Protestant churches.
The pope also will greet the families of
the 230 male religious and 547 female
religious who work in foreign missions.
Maltese religious working in Malta include
another 625 men and almost 1,300 women.
There also are six cloistered communities
on the island with a total of 120 nuns.
According to the Maltese bishops’ press
office, this will be the first-ever visit of a
reigning pontiff to Malta. In the 1600s, two
men who later became popes visited: the
future popes Alexander VII and Innocent
The first Christian in Malta was St. Paul,
who was shipwrecked on the island in the
year 60, according to the Acts of the
The pope is scheduled to visit two places
associated with St. Paul’s three-month
stay. After reciting the Regina Coeli
prayer May 27, he will go to St. Paul’s
Grotto at Rabat, which popular tradition
says was St. Paul’s Maltese home.
The cathedral at Mdina, where the
ecumenical gathering is scheduled, is said
to have been built on the site of the palace
operated by Catholic Charities USA, has
collected $2.6 million.
Some $1.2 million allocated for Califor
nia earthquake victims was collected from
6,000 individuals, parishes and dioceses
Distributed through the Archdiocese of
San Francisco and the dioceses of
Oakland, Monterey and San Jose, the
money was being used for housing, social
services and church and school repairs.
of Publius, the prince who welcomed St.
Paul to the island.
Although archeological evidence sug
gests that a small Christian community
was always present on the island after St.
Paul’s departure, it wasn’t until the fourth
century that Christianity gained
The church’s position suffered with the
Arab invasion of 870, and Islam became
the dominant faith. The Norman invasion
in 1090 gave greater freedoms to Chris
tians, although Muslims continued to be
the majority for another century.
The Muslims were expelled in 1224, and
from 1253 Malta had a regular succession
of Catholic bishops.
Another $822,000 has gone for hurricane
relief. The remaining $200,000 in
undesignated contributions also was to be
used in the relief effort.
Not included in those sums were con
tributions made directly to the affected
dioceses and the $750,000 raised through
the efforts of the Catholic Church Exten
sion Society, which supports missions in
the United States and U.S. territories.
In lj>30, me islands were given to the
Knights of St. John, also known as the
Knights of Malta. Under the Knights’ pro
tection, the Maltese Diocese was headed
by a resident bishop, synods were held to
implement the teachings of the Council of
Trent, churches were built and many
religious orders were established.
In the 1790s, Napoleon invaded Malta on
his way to Egypt and held it under siege
for two years. The Maltese, with the help
of the British, expelled the French in 1800
and formally came under the protection of
Independence was granted in 1964, and
the last British troops left the island in