(NCR Online) Black Catholics must work harder to bridge the racial divide in communities, the nation and within the church, while the Catholic Church needs to be a stronger force in confronting the systemic racism at the root of mass incarceration and economic inequality.
That was the key message at the 12th National Black Catholic Congress that attracted more than 2,200 participants July 6-9. They gathered from dioceses across the nation to learn from each other and draw inspiration from speakers such as Cardinal Peter Turkson, the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, attorney Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and Bishop Edward Braxton of Belleville, Illinois, author of the pastoral letter and study guide “The Racial Divide in the United States: A Reflection for the World Day of Peace 2015.”
Amid workshops on prayer, Bible study and prison ministries were sessions on racism as a destructive force and lessons learned in the St. Louis Archdiocese from the unrest in Ferguson after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in 2014.
Held every five years, this congress gathered amidst a backdrop of an increase in racial violence, a polarizing presidential election and a nation ripped open by a series of killings of unarmed blacks by police. In powerful speeches and homilies, the collective pain of the community was clear — yet so was the call to action, including the issuance of a preamble with principles for a pastoral plan of action.
“Racism ultimately leads to death — both for those who are its victims and spiritual death for those who are perpetrators,” said Fr. Patrick Smith, in a homily that drew a standing ovation, July 7 in the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe. [More]