At the end of 2016, the nation continues to grapple with police violence toward unarmed black men, unprovoked attacks on police officers, the threat of mass deportations and the re-emergence of white nationalism as a political force. Tensions are high across the country, but many Americans, the U.S. bishops included, are eager to work against racial injustice and inequality and toward healing and reconciliation. The urgency of this issue was conveyed at the recent gathering of the U.S. bishops in Baltimore. Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta recommended that the bishops “expedite” their planned pastoral statement on racism and issue a shorter version immediately, “particularly in the context of post-election uncertainty and disaffection.” He also urged action “to promote community development and peace” through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
Archbishop Gregory’s desire to address the injustices of racism and division emphasizes the need for American Catholics in the pews to do the same. And while en-couragement by the bishops is admirable, no one needs to wait for a letter from the bishops to act. The church, in its diversity and commitment to service, should strive to reach out to people across class and racial lines in an effort to unite neighbors in solidarity, foster dialogue and offer support. Prayer, love and charity are sorely needed today. We must learn to love one another both in spite of and because of our differences.