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Bishops form new body to address 'sin of racism' that 'inflicts' nation

Saying there is an "urgent need" to address "the sin of racism" in the country and find solutions to it, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has established a new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and named one of the country's African-American Catholic bishops to chair it.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, initiated the committee Aug. 23 "to focus on addressing the sin of racism in our society, and even in our church, and the urgent need to come together as a society to find solutions."

He appointed Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Catholic Education, to chair the new ad hoc committee.

"Recent events have exposed the extent to which the sin of racism continues to inflict our nation," Cardinal DiNardo said in a statement. "The establishment of this new ad hoc committee will be wholly dedicated to engaging the church and our society to work together in unity to challenge the sin of racism, to listen to persons who are suffering under this sin, and to come together in the love of Christ to know one another as brothers and sisters."

The naming of members to serve on the new body will be finalized in coming days, the USCCB said in an announcement. It added that the committee's mandate "will be confirmed at the first meeting, expected very shortly."

"I look forward to working with my brother bishops as well as communities across the United States to listen to the needs of individuals who have suffered under the sin of racism and together find solutions to this epidemic of hate that has plagued our nation for far too long," Bishop Murry said in a statement.

"Through Jesus' example of love and mercy, we are called to be a better people than what we have witnessed over the past weeks and months as a nation. Through listening, prayer and meaningful collaboration, I'm hopeful we can find lasting solutions and common ground where racism will no longer find a place in our hearts or in our society."

The new ad hoc committee also will "welcome and support" implementation of the U.S. bishops' new pastoral letter on racism, expected to be released in 2018. In 1979, the bishops issued a pastoral in racism titled "Brothers and Sisters to Us," in which they addressed many themes, but the overall message then as today was "racism is a sin."

Creation of a new formal body that is part of the USCCB -- formed on the USCCB Executive Committee's "unanimous recommendation" -- speaks to how serious the U.S. Catholic Church leaders take the problem of racism in America today.

It is the first ad hoc committee the bishops have established since instituting the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty in 2011 to address growing concerns over the erosion of freedom of religion in America. The federal governments mandate that all employers, including religious employers provide health care coverage of artificial contraceptives and abortifacients was one of the key issues that prompted formation of the committee.

Chaired by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, that body was elevated to full USCCB committee status during the bishops' spring assembly in Indianapolis this past June.

In addition to the Executive Committee's recommendation, the USCCB said, the decision to initiate the new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism also was made in consultation with members of the USCCB's Committee on Priorities and Plans.

The formation of the ad hoc committee also follows the conclusion of the work of the Peace in Our Communities Task Force. The task force was formed in July 2016 by then-Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, who was then USCCB president. He initiated it in response to racially related shootings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as well as in Minneapolis and Dallas.

To head it he named Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, one of the nation's African-American prelates who was the first black Catholic bishop to be president of the USCCB (2001-2004).

The task force's mandate was to explore ways of promoting peace and healing around the country. Archbishop Kurtz also wanted the bishops to look for ways they could help the suffering communities, as well as police affected by the incidents.

On Nov. 14, 2016, during the USCCB's fall general assembly, Archbishop Gregory told the bishops to issue, sooner rather than later, a document on racism.

"A statement from the full body of bishops on racism is increasingly important at this time," said the archbishop in reporting on the work of the task force.

He said the president of the bishops' conference and relevant committees need to "identify opportunities for a shorter-term statement on these issues, particularly in the context of the postelection uncertainty and disaffection."

He also urged prayer, ecumenical and interfaith collaboration, dialogue, parish-based and diocesan conversations and training, as well as opportunities for encounter.

The bishops' 1979 pastoral, now in its 19th printing, declared: "Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father."
 
  • Published in Nation

Archbishop calls for bishops' racism statement given election tension

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Earlier this year, as communities faced tensions, protests and violence, following a spate of shootings and killings of black men by police, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, asked dioceses across the country to observe a day of prayer for peace.
 
He also wanted the bishops to look for ways they could help the suffering communities, as well as police affected by the incidents.
 
To that end, he appointed a special task force to explore ways of promoting peace and healing around the country and named Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta to head it.
 
On Nov. 14, Archbishop Gregory urged bishops gathered in Baltimore at the USCCB's fall general assembly to issue, sooner rather than later, a document on racism.
"A statement from the full body of bishops on racism is increasingly important at this time," said Archbishop Gregory.
 
He urged that the Administrative Committee of the country's bishops, "in collaboration with relevant standing committees, do all it can to expedite the drafting and approval of the statement on racism currently contemplated in the 2017-2020 strategic plan, given the urgency of the present moment."
 
He said the president of the bishops' conference and relevant committees need to "identify opportunities for a shorter-term statement on these issues, particularly in the context of the postelection uncertainty and disaffection."
 
He also urged prayer, ecumenical and interfaith collaboration, dialogue, parish-based and diocesan conversations and training, as well as opportunities for encounter.
 
In a news conference that followed his afternoon presentation and ended the first day of the bishops' assembly, Archbishop Gregory said he was concerned about the communities that were disrupted by violence and riots after the police shootings earlier this summer. Some of these communities are experiencing reactions and tensions brought about by the election results, he said.
 
"It's the hope of the task force, of people of goodwill, that the demonstrations, don't turn violent," he said.
American society has the ability to give opinions on social matters through various forms of expression, including protests, but "what we pray for is that those expressions of frustrations don't provide another vehicle for violence."
 
Tensions had been high enough in July, when Archbishop Kurtz had said the Catholic Church needed to "walk with and help these suffering communities" that had been affected by the shootings and the riots protesting them that followed. "I have stressed the need to look toward additional ways of nurturing an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity, and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence," Archbishop Kurtz said at the time.
 
He said he wanted the work of the task force to help embrace the suffering of the communities, to nurture peace and build bridges of communication and mutual aid in local communities.
 
The recommendations, said Archbishop Gregory, were examined before the recent elections and all the tensions and protests that have followed. The recommendations were related to race and violence issues that resulted from the summer shootings and riots.
 
Archbishop Gregory expressed hope that the Church could help foster dialogue and bring healing by working with communities for a lasting peace.
 
"The disruptions (to the) communities that sparked the establishment of the task force have been going on for at least two years," he said. "Violence against people of color is a lot longer than two years. … The reaction to the election, it's added to that tension."
 
He said he was praying and hoping that "expressions of frustration, of anger, of disapproval" don't continue to disrupt the social fabric of those communities.

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The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington observed the national Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities proposed byArchbishop Joseph E. Kurtz on Sept. 9, 2016. For more information on the day of prayer: vermontcatholic.org/prayerforpeace
 
  • Published in Nation
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