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Michael J. O’LoughlinSeptember 08, 2016
March for Peace. Participants walk during a call for an end to violence in their community June 17 in Chicago. The march followed a rally in front of St. Sabina Church. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

Catholics throughout the United States are being urged to pray for racial justice on Sept. 9 to mark the Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities, a commemoration called for earlier this summer by bishops following several high-profile cases of violence involving police officers and civilians, against a backdrop of racial unrest.

“We hope to highlight the importance of prayer as a reasonable and efficacious response to the violence that has touched too many communities in our nation,” Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta said Thursday, on a call with reporters.

“We also hope that through this prayer, local dialogues will take place in parishes and in small communities to highlight the root causes of this tension that obviously is still very much a part of too many of our lives.”

Archbishop Gregory is leading a task force convened in July by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is charged with gathering materials related to racial justice already being used in dioceses across the country and to promote dialogue in communities affected by violence.

The group is expected to present a final report to the U.S.C.C.B. during their fall meeting in November.

Archbishop Gregory, who is black, said that the work of promoting racial justice falls not just to those who are directly affected by racism and violence, but is the job of all people, especially Catholics.

“Not every neighborhood and every urban environment is filled with violence,” he said. But all Catholics have a duty to “to raise up the frustration that drives the violence, whether it be loss of economic opportunity, jobs, education.”

“All of those things that are really systemic examples of racism that need to be identified and confronted,” he said.

Archbishop Gregory said he expects the issue of gun violence, and what to do about it, to be addressed in the report.

“Catholic bishops are on record calling for a really significant review of the proliferation of guns in our country and ways that will safeguard our people, whether it be background checks, or the elimination of certain types of high caliber weapons,” he said.

“Our prayer, our hope is that the bishops and the local pastors will continue to push on the local level real serious gun control and safety precautions because we know that all politics is local.”

During Thursday’s call, Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, said that beyond the need for stricter gun control laws, “the deeper question is why are [people] turning to guns, why is it that they believe violence will bring about what they want?”

Several incidents of alleged police brutality against African Americans this year, including the deaths of some unarmed black men at the hands of white officers, have brought attention to the issue of discord between law enforcement and people of color.

Archbishop Gregory said those concerns would be addressed during a Mass on Friday in Atlanta for police and first responders.

“We will use that vehicle both to thank them for their service, to pledge to them our support and respect, but also to make the theme of racial harmony and justice a part of that celebration,” he said. “It brings together two moments, that in many situations, are not often locked together.”

Bishop Fabre also said that bishops are drafting a pastoral letter on racism, which has been in the works for a couple of years.

“It’s in the very beginning stage, but it will certainly address how is it that racism manifests itself in society, and maybe even in the church today,” he said. “Racism is something that remains, and it can adapt to new circumstances.”

The chair the U.S.C.C.B. subcommittee on African-American affairs, Bishop Fabre said that prayer is the first step of a “very long process of working toward racial harmony and healing in our community.”

“As people of faith, we always begin with prayer and then that prayer leads and empowers us to undertake action,” he said.

He stressed the need for dialogue and bridge building before racial tensions erupt in violence.

“If tensions do run high, they know one another and there’s not a rush to judge one another,” he said.

He said the Catholic Church could be a partner to the Black Lives Matter movement, “working with them to see how together we can assist one another in addressing these needs in the community.”

The Day of Prayer for Peace in our Communities coincides with the feast day of St. Peter Claver, a 16th century Spanish Jesuit, who is the patron saint of African Americans.

Archbishop Gregory said he hopes the Day of Prayer is just the first step in an ongoing conversation about race and justice. He pointed to Catholic schools in the archdiocese as an example of how that might work.

“All of the school kids at the same hour will offer the prayer of peace, and they will take home those prayer cards,” he said. “When parents and grandparents ask, ‘What did you school today?’ they will be able to say, ‘We prayed for peace,’ which will hopefully generate some conversation in all the homes that those youngsters come from.”

The prayer, created for the Day of Prayer, says, “Fill us with your mercy so that we, in turn, may be merciful to others. Strip away pride, suspicion and racism so that we may seek peace and justice in our communities.”

“Hopefully the prayer will soften hearts and enlighten minds as we move forward,” Archbishop Gregory said.

Michael O’Loughlinis the national correspondent for America. Follow him on Twitter at @mikeoloughlin.

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William Rydberg
7 years 8 months ago
Lets hope that this USCCB initiative spurs the Pope Francis to reprioritize. We need desperately a Peace Pope... Like John 23rd Paul 6, JP1&2. The threat of Thermonuclear War is real according to experts... The Society of Jesus really ought to get out in front of this...
JR Cosgrove
7 years 8 months ago
I have a question:
Is it racism that is causing the problems in the Black communities across the United States. And if it is, who are the racist? And what exactly are they doing?
We constantly hear the expression from John, "The truth will set us free." But do we really want to know who are the racists and what have they done? This video clearly identifies the root cause of many of the problems in Black communities. http://bit.ly/29FGdBN One thing for sure it is not racism by the police that is the source of problems within the Black community. If anything the police are a stabilizing force within the Black community. Could it be that it those who claim the police are the problem, are one of the destabilizing forces? Donald Trump claims he has identified the source of the racism (I am not fan of Trump but believe he has gotten this right.) Here is his speech from a couple weeks ago. http://bit.ly/2bvciiT One of the relevant parts of this speech
The inner cities of our country have been run by the Democratic Party for 50 years. Their policies have produced only poverty, joblessness, failing schools, and broken homes. It is time to hold Democratic Politicians accountable for what they have done to these communities. It is time to hold failed leaders accountable for their results, not just their empty words
Is this the direction where the truth is? If so, then if this is not addressed the truth will not set anyone free until that happens! I believe we should pray but we should pray that our leaders including the bishops and the authors here at America have the courage to address the truth.
Vincent Gaglione
7 years 8 months ago
I lived in minority NYC neighborhoods for 50 years of my life. In the last such neighborhood it was customary every other week to have to drive through a police stop checking for registrations, licenses and the smell of marijuana in the car, in which case a search and arrest could be made. A friend of mine who lived in midtown Manhattan used to tell me that I was too sensitive, that it was good to eliminate drug dealers. I had no problem with it if they had done the same car stops in her neighborhood where the young white professionals bought and smoked their drugs more than where I lived. You will never convince me that the protesters are wrong. I lived too long through harassing and uneven racial policing. Just one more comment. I live in a suburb of NYC now where the local paper bemoans regularly about the drug and opioid problem of young white residents. I only wish they were stuffing them into the same jails in which they put so many minority people for the same behaviors. When you're white it becomes a health problem; when you're minority it's a crime. Another example of an entrenched racial disparity not just by police but by USA society!
JR Cosgrove
7 years 8 months ago
Thank you for agreeing with me.
Vincent Gaglione
7 years 8 months ago
I looked for the reply to my comment and sure enough it was there very quickly. The rapidity and glibness of your response disturbed me quite a bit. I couldn’t immediately figure out why. At Mass yesterday I understood why it bothered me so much. I am sure that you realized that I did not truly mean what I said about throwing all those white opioid addicts in jail. I did mean to suggest however that it is probably how the families of those minorities who have endured jail time for the same illness must feel. If you didn’t realize what I intended, now you do. But I don’t think that my explanation changes the mind and intent you expressed in your answer to me. Your reply expresses a strong sense that law and order and justice be accomplished. And its brevity implies that you expect it to be applied and implemented quickly and seemingly without any regard to any individuals. That might seem like justice but it lacks the Christian virtue of mercy. It lacks any regard for circumstances and context and an understanding of individuals. The Christian right in the United States, and that includes many Catholics, possess a unique rigidity about religion, practice, justice, and behavior. And they possess as well a unique arrogance that they adhere to their faiths better than many other Christians. This past Sunday’s Gospel, including the story of the upright brother miffed at the father’s welcome and generosity to the wastrel son, made me realize what I found so offensive in your reply. Your reply lacked mercy and love for anyone not as good as you apparently have been.
JR Cosgrove
7 years 8 months ago
Again, I have to thank you for agreeing with me. To say that you don't agree with me requires reading something into my original comment that is not there. Maybe you should read more closely and say why you do not agree if in fact you do. I thanked you originally because you did not disagree with anything I said but went off on some tangent about white use of drugs. This is tantamount to agreeing with me. Also by thanking you originally I did not imply I agreed with what you said. There is a difference. But I have some sympathy for how Blacks feel but who is the cause for that? I believe that it is extremely tough living in Black neighborhoods and there are some very positive things that could be done for them but nothing on the table now will change the basic underlying situation. You attribute many things to me that you have no idea if they are true or not. I was taught not to do that in my Catholic education. For example how did my answer lack mercy and love when I am protesting the horrid conditions that Democratic politicians have inflicted on the Black community? If anything that indicates a caring for what has caused their situation and want to change it. Democrats certainly do not want to change it or else they would have made an attempt long ago. By the way what does the term "Christian right" mean? People like to throw around the term "right" because they think it is a pejorative but in reality the term "right" has little meaning in today's world. I assume you are supporting Trump for president because he is on record for doing something for Blacks. Democrats have created the mess and offer nothing that will correct it. I doubt Trump could change the situation in any meaningful way but at least he is on record as wanting to try.
Vincent Gaglione
7 years 8 months ago
And thank you for helping me to understand more fully your original posting. As some of my conservative friends say to me, I'll pray for you!. You please do likewise for me. Amen.
Vincent Gaglione
7 years 8 months ago
NEWS to me! Never heard a word about it from the pulpit or bulletin of my parish nor in the archdiocesan newspaper. Many of the Catholic Bishops of the United States brag about these NCCB documents and days of prayer and then don't publicize and emphasize them. They just pull them out when they need to be politically correct.

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