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Overcoming suspicion and enmity

· ​Initiatives of the US bishops following incidents of racial violence ·

A special task force for promoting peace and reconciliation among communities who live in situations of racial tension, and a national Day of Prayer to be held in all dioceses of the country on 9 September. Catholic bishops in the US have launched these two initiatives in the wake of the recent incidents of violence and racial tension between various factions and law enforcement. The situations, which occurred in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas, have caused numerous casualties on both sides. In recent weeks these episodes have caused the country to slip back into an atmosphere of horror, imbued with feelings of hatred and vengeance. It is an atmosphere that, as we know, the US had already experienced in a terrible way during the sixties.

The task force, to be chaired by Archbishop Wilton Daniel Gregory of Atlanta, who from 2001 to 2004 led the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, will be sustainably composed of five bishops and will also rely on the collaboration and advice of lay experts as well as that of Cardinal Daniel N DiNardo, the Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, vice president of the episcopate, and bishops whose dioceses have been particularly affected by violence. The commission — as explained on the USCCB website — will aim to “help bishops engage the challenging problems directly, by various means: gathering and disseminating supportive resources and ‘best practices’; actively listening to the concerns of members in troubled communities and law enforcement; and building strong relationships to help prevent and resolve conflicts”.

On 8 July, in response to the latest incidents of violence, Archbishop Joseph Edward Kurtz of Louisville, President of the USCCB, noted the need for the Catholic Church to find new ways of accompanying and helping the local communities that are experiencing dangerous incidents of racial violence. The initiatives announced seem to aim precisely at meeting these needs. “I have stressed the need to look toward additional ways of nurturing an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity, and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence”, explained Archbishop Kurtz, who said that both the Day of Prayer and the Task Force “will help us advance in that direction”, and in this way to take a step “forward to embrace the suffering, through unified, concrete action animated by the love of Christ”. In this sense, the hope is to contribute to “nurture peace and build bridges of communication and mutual aid in our own communities”.

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Nov. 17, 2018

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