By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
Several weeks ago, Sarkis Assadourian, a former Member of the Canadian Parliament, informed me that at his request Parliamentarian Judy Sgro had nominated Pope Francis for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize.
In her nomination letter, MP Sgro praised His Holiness for crafting "a papacy of inclusion, openness and reform." She described the Pope as "an inspirational force for good" and "a symbol of hope.... From his efforts at reconciliation of past misdeeds and conflicts, to his work geared to promote peace and a greater understanding and tolerance of those with differing viewpoints, Pope Francis has already established himself as a genuine and constructive instrument of global change."
Assadourian asked me if I could find a U.S. legislator who would likewise nominate Pope Francis for the Nobel Peace Prize. I immediately contacted Cong. Adam Schiff (D-CA) who not only agreed to nominate the Pope, but also sought the support of other House Members by circulating a letter addressed to the Nobel Committee.
Cong. Schiff's Sept. 23rd letter states: "With unsurpassed eloquence, humility and compassion, the Pope has used his pulpit to exhort people and nations around the world to conduct their affairs with spirituality, morality and integrity.... Pope Francis has been a powerful advocate for peace, urging an end to conflict and support for constitutive ties among nations. He has called on the world to use diplomacy and discussion to solve disputes, rather than military force, coercion or intimidation. This 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."
In view of the Pope's reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide during a Vatican Mass in early April, Cong. Schiff commended "his courageous stand for human rights and his condemnation of all genocides, both past and present." His Holiness has also condemned "the persecution of Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq."
Cong. Schiff also characterized Pope Francis as the "leading advocate of relief" for large numbers of refugees currently flooding Europe. The Pontiff has even invited "a Syrian refugee family to reside in his residence at The Vatican."
Finally, in his letter of nomination, Cong. Schiff emphasized that "Pope Francis has also worked to galvanize the international community to take on global problems, such as the changing climate and environmental degradation.... Pope Francis casts the issue of an unhealthy earth in religious terms, emphasizing our joint duty to care for the world and to pass on an unspoiled environment to future generations."
Coinciding with the Pope's U.S. visit and address to the joint Houses of Congress, Schiff's letter attracted great attention from colleagues and the media. The Washington Post, for example, in a lengthy article, "Should Pope Francis receive the Nobel Peace Prize?" noted that "a peace prize for Francis would be historic: no Pope has ever won the honor."
A nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize is considered valid only if it is submitted by a person who falls within one of the following categories:
Members of National Assemblies and governments of states;
Members of international courts;
Members of Institut de Droit International;
University rectors; professors of social sciences, history, philosophy, law and theology;
Directors of peace research institutes and foreign policy institutes;
Persons who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize;
Board members of organizations that have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize;
Active and former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee; and
Former advisers to the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
The Pope's nomination would be considerably strengthened if it is also backed by U.S. Senators and legislators from other countries, including Armenian Parliamentarians. The deadline for submitting nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize is February 1, 2016. The recipient is selected by a 5-member Norwegian Nobel Committee appointed by the Parliament of Norway. The prize is awarded each year on December 10 in Oslo City Hall.
Pope Francis fully deserves the Nobel Peace Prize even though he is too modest to seek it or even accept it. Should he win the Prize, His Holiness would most probably donate the $1.5 million award to the poor and the destitute around the world.