Resistance movement seeks an end to drone warfare

Ellen Grady, a Catholic Worker from Ithaca, N.Y., peacefully protests drone warfare outside of Hancock AIr National Guard Base near Syracuse on Ash Wednesday. (Courtesy Upstate New York Coalition to Ground the Drones)

Ellen Grady, a Catholic Worker from Ithaca, N.Y., peacefully protests drone warfare outside of Hancock Air National Guard Base near Syracuse on Ash Wednesday. (Courtesy Upstate New York Coalition to Ground the Drones)

Ellen Grady, a Catholic Worker from Ithaca, N.Y., doesn’t like the idea that war has come home to her backyard.

The war is the country’s war on terror. The place where it is being waged is the Hancock Field Air National Guard Base near Syracuse, a little more than an hour north of where she lives.

Hancock is one of several U.S. bases where drone operators pilot unmanned aircraft in their search for suspected Muslim militants halfway around the world.

And for the third time in two years, Grady, 50, was arrested for protesting the drones during a nonviolent witness on Ash Wednesday to begin the season of Lent.

She was one of nine people arrested after refusing to leave base property. The group held signs calling for the end of drone warfare in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Grady’s sister, Mary Ann Grady Flores, was among those arrested.

The Air National Guard had no immediate comment about the arrests.

At the end of January, Grady told Catholic News Service she felt it was important to speak out against the drones, especially because she knows her husband had also been involved in peaceful protests against war throughout his life before he died in an accident on their farm.

“Intellectually I know that the building of these weapons is the modern-day crucifixion of Christ,” she said.

“I just feel that it’s amazing we have technology and we have no standard on how we are to use them,” Grady added.

Her first arrest occurred on Good Friday in 2011, two years after her husband, Peter DeMott, died in an accident. She was one of 37 people taken into custody and released. After both of her arrests, she was sentenced to 15 days in jail. She was released after eight days both times.

She could not be reached Thursday afternoon.

A statement released by the nine said they came to Hancock “to remember the victims of our drone strikes and to ask God’s forgiveness for the killing of other human beings, most especially children.”

Grady, a member of the Cornell Catholic Community at Cornell University, told CNS she discerned long and hard about risking arrest the first time because she still had a young daughter at home. She said her daughter, Saoirse, now 10, encouraged her to follow her conscience.

“My daughter said ‘I don’t really want you to do this, Mom. But you know what? We know what it’s like to have someone die in our family from an accident. These other people (survivors of innocent drone victims) know what it’s like to have someone die when we (the U.S.) do it on purpose,’” Grady explained.

So Grady again showed up at Hancock on Ash Wednesday, prepared to be arrested in the ongoing effort to call attention to drone warfare by the Upstate New York Coalition to Ground the Drones.

“We call it Gandhian ways action,” she said upon returning home yesterday. “That the idea of continuing to go back. It’s not just a one-time thing. We’re coming back and we’re coming back and we’re coming back.”

Others arrested were Jim Clune of Binghampton, N.Y.; Bill Frankel-Streit of Trevilians, Va.; Nancy Gowen of Richmond, Va.; Linda LeTendre of Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; Father Bill Pickard of Scranton, Pa.; Matt Ryan of Ithaca; and Carmen Trotta of New York.

A closer look at U.S. drone policy is explored in this week’s Washington Letter.

A little normalcy in the pope’s library

Pope Benedict and Cindy Wooden

Cindy greets the pope! (CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

VATICAN CITY — Almost nothing is normal at the Vatican these days.

I was surprised this morning that Pope Benedict XVI’s meeting with Romanian President Traian Basescu seemed so much like any other audience with a visiting head of state held in the last eight years.

The only difference was that after the president left, Salvatore Mazza and I were allowed to greet the pope on behalf of the International Association of Journalists Accredited to the Vatican. Mazza, a reporter for Avvenire, the Italian Catholic daily, is president of the association. I am secretary.

In the name of the more than 400 journalists permanently accredited to the Vatican, Mazza thanked the pope “for these eight years,” and I thanked him for his clear and patient teaching style.

The rest of the audience went by the book:

The president and his entourage arrived in the Apostolic Palace, walked by Swiss Guards at attention in the Clementine Hall, and then were led to a little waiting room for 10 minutes.

At 11:06, Pope Benedict greeted Basescu in the Room of the Throne, saying, “Welcome, welcome.” The president thanked the pope for allowing him to keep the appointment set long before Pope Benedict announced his resignation. The pope told him again that he was welcome and turned the president so they both were facing photographers.

Pope Benedict led the president into his private library, where the two sat on either side of the pope’s desk and had a private conversation for almost 20 minutes.

The journalists, who had been led to a small waiting room during the private meeting, were escorted back into the papal library as Basescu presented the 12 members of his entourage.

The Romanian gave Pope Benedict a huge book, made of handmade paper, recounting the history of Christianity in Romania. He told the pope it was made under the supervision of the Romanian Orthodox Church.

After turning several pages of the book, the pope told Basescu, “My gift is modest.”

Nestled in a large white gift box was a medal in a filigree frame. “It’s a medal of my pontificate,” the pope said.

Pope Benedict walked Basescu to the door of the library. Gripping the pope’s hand, the president said, “I will pray for you.”

The pope has another presidential audience scheduled for tomorrow morning: a meeting with the president of Guatemala, which also was on the pope’s agenda before he announced his resignation.

Only two politicians received appointments with the pope after the Feb. 11 announcement: tomorrow evening Pope Benedict will hold a private meeting with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and the morning of Feb. 23 he will meet Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.