WASHINGTON - In light of recent incidents of violence and racial tension in communities across the United States, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has invited all dioceses across the country to unite in a Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities. He has also appointed a special task force to support bishops in marking that Day of Prayer, and more broadly, in promoting peace and healing during this time of great strain on civil society.
On July 8, in his initial and immediate response to the racially-related shootings in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, noted the need to look at ways the Catholic Church can walk with and help these suffering communities. The initiatives announced today begin to address that need.
"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," Archbishop Kurtz said. "The Day of Prayer and special Task Force will help us advance in that direction. By stepping forward to embrace the suffering, through unified, concrete action animated by the love of Christ, we hope to nurture peace and build bridges of communication and mutual aid in our own communities."
The Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities will be celebrated on the feast of St. Peter Claver, September 9, and will serve as a focal point for the work of the task force.
The purpose of the Task Force is 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. The Task Force will conclude its work with a report on its activities and recommendations for future work to the November General Assembly.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, former USCCB president, will chair the task force.
"I am honored to lead this Task Force which will assist my brother bishops, individually and as a group, to accompany suffering communities on the path toward peace and reconciliation," said Archbishop Gregory. "We are one body in Christ, so we must walk with our brothers and sisters and renew our commitment to promote healing. The suffering is not somewhere else, or someone else's; it is our own, in our very dioceses."
Other members are: Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Social Development; Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for African American Affairs; Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, Bishop Emeritus of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, former chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Church in Africa, member of the USCCB Subcommittee for African American Affairs, and member of the board of the National Black Catholic Congress; and Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).
The Task Force will also have numerous bishop consultants, including USCCB vice president Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, as well as bishops whose jurisdictions have experienced extreme gun violence, or who otherwise bring special insight or experience on related questions. An equal or smaller number of lay consultants with relevant expertise will be appointed soon thereafter.