Cardinal Gregory stresses the need for believers to fight against racism

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Catholics and all people of faith must engage in the “tremendously important work” of fighting injustice, racism and other societal ills that prevent people from living in peace, said Washington Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory in an October speech. 13 address at Fairfield University in Connecticut.

In his lecture – as the inaugural speaker of the Jesuit University’s “Faith Leaders for Racial Justice” series – the cardinal emphasized that while the Catholic Church “has been at the forefront of racial reconciliation and racial justice for many years…we have not overcome all barriers of injustice even within the church itself.

Washington Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory, third from right, speaks during the ‘Faith Leaders for Racial Justice’ lecture series at Fairfield University in Connecticut on October 13, 2022. (CNS Photo/Handout , Fairfield University via Catholic Standard)

He also said it was “appropriate for us as a church to discuss the important subject of racism in the context of our faith” and stressed that to overcome the sin of racism, congregations and ministries must be authentic places of hospitality and welcome.

The cardinal said the faithful “are called to model Christ in our society in every possible way” and can be guided to do so by following Catholic social teaching, which he called an “incredibly valuable part of our faith”.

He lamented what he called “a unique and tense time in our history”, adding: “We are bombarded with the negative heaviness of it all as it becomes painfully clear that we don’t care about our neighbour… We see these things happening all around us and know that we cannot sit back and let them continue.

He also criticized what he called a “breakdown in civility and respect (which) threatens our unity and hampers our ability to address the myriad issues we face – such as institutional racism, police brutality, armed violence and respect for the dignity of every human life, especially the most vulnerable.

“Our ability to communicate and speak honestly with each other to engage in meaningful and healthy conversation is diminishing, and it’s costing us our well-being,” he said. “As believers and religious leaders, it is our responsibility to address any inequalities we see – as we always pray, work and promote peace in a world full of hostility and conflict.”

Cardinal Gregory urged the faithful to familiarize themselves with Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, “Fratelli Tutti: On Fraternity and Social Friendship”, published in 2020 to call on the world to reject racism and war and work towards world brotherhood and solidarity.

He also suggested careful consideration of the US bishops’ pastoral letter, “Open Our Hearts Wide: The Persistent Call to Love,” against racism.

He emphasized that racism can be overcome if believers “experience a continuous conversion to live the gospel message and work for justice. When our brothers and sisters are treated unfairly because of their country of origin or subjected to structural racism because of the color of their skin or discriminated against because of a disability or anything else, we are called to proclaim the gospel message,” he said.

“We are on a journey as a human family, and I am hopeful that we will experience racial reconciliation in our continued conversion through honest and respectful dialogue,” he added. “With this and our renewed commitment to progress, guided by our devotion to prayer and our active work to end racism and division, we will get there.”

Szczepanowski is editor of the Catholic Standard, an archdiocesan newspaper in Washington.

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