How the U.S. bishops are planning to bring peace in 2017

(CNS photo/Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA)

The Catholic Church has a "tremendous responsibility to bring people together in prayer and dialogue, to begin anew the vital work of fostering healing and lasting peace," said a report by a U.S. bishops' task force released on Jan. 5 in the wake of last year's incidents of violence and racial tensions.

The work to "root out racism and create healthy dynamics in our neighborhoods" is a long-term project, but the scope of it should not cause fear or intimidation, wrote Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, chairman of the Task Force to Promote Peace in Our Communities, in the report's introduction.

Advertisement

He also said "the church is at her absolute best when she is a bold and prophetic voice for the power of the love upon which our faith is based, the love of Jesus Christ."

The task force is taking on a broad issue, but in its report, it breaks down what needs to be done into a few recommendations to the U.S. bishops, urging them to focus on:

  • Prayer: Masses, rosaries, prayer services during the year.
  • Local dialogues: conversations on race and dialogues hosted by parishes or dioceses.
  • Parish and diocesan training: intercultural competence training for staff and parishioners.
  • Opportunities for encounter: providing forums for people to examine local challenges firsthand.
  • Support of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which funds group that address concerns about race, poverty and violence.

The group also recommended that the National Day of Prayer for Peace in our Communities be an annual observance, urged U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop committees to provide resources for racial healing and stressed that a statement on racism from the bishops was "more important than ever."

A summary of the findings of the task force—convened last year by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, then president of the USCCB—was presented to the U.S. bishops in November at their fall assembly in Baltimore.

The full report highlights some of the activities promoted by the task force last year, including the nationwide celebration of a Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities on Sept. 9 and listening sessions and interviews between members of the task force and community members.

In describing some of the discussions that took place among task force members—both bishops and lay leaders—the report notes that there is not a one-time solution for overcoming racism and violence.

In stressing the work ahead, the task force praised previous bishops' statements on racism, but said they were "not sufficient to address the difficulties of the moment." It also urged Catholics to look at where they might be contributing to race issues "from hiring practices to parish and school closures."

The group stressed that the church should continue to pray for the challenges facing communities not just "in the heat of a tragic moment" but throughout the year.

It also summarized some interviews that took place with individuals on the topic of building peaceful communities. In discussions with police officers, for example, one person said he had started a program where each church in his area was responsible for what happened within a one-mile radius of their church building and church members were trained on how to engage in conversations that would build community dialogue.

A police officer stressed that parishes could plan events in various neighborhoods to give police officers and residents a chance to sit and talk.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Sources in the Vatican say they cannot understand how President Trump’s decision to recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel can be in the best interests of the United States.
Gerard O’ConnellDecember 10, 2017
Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) holds two paper cranes in Oslo on Dec. 9. (AP Photo/David Keyton)
The pope was lauded at the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize for condemning the “false sense of security” of nuclear weapons.
Gerard O’ConnellDecember 10, 2017
A reflection for the second Sunday in Advent
Elizabeth Kirkland CahillDecember 09, 2017
Pope Francis prays during a prayer service at a statue of Mary near the Spanish Steps in Rome Dec. 8. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
The pope wants to to clear up the confusion around the phrase “lead us not into temptation.”
America StaffDecember 08, 2017