BALTIMORE - The chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Special Task Force to Promote Peace in Our Communities presented findings and recommendations from the Task Force that call Bishops to continue and deepen the vital work of fostering healing and lasting peace in their respective communities.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta presented the findings today at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Fall General Assembly in Baltimore. The former Conference President provided feedback from interviews and an in-person listening session conducted in October, involving bishops and leaders from communities hit hard by violence and unrest. Participants in the listening session highlighted the strong need for ongoing conversations about the nature of challenges facing communities, and stressed the need for sustained work in order to move toward lasting solutions and healing on matters of race. Participants also emphasized the need for honest dialogues across many groups and communities, as well as with law enforcement, community leaders, young people, activists, and community groups. The important role of bishops in helping to convene these conversations was emphasized.
"It has been an honor to chair this Task Force and to offer recommendations to my brother bishops as we look toward innovative solutions in accompanying those who are suffering in communities across our nation," said Archbishop Gregory. "The Church has a tremendous opportunity, and an equally tremendous responsibility, to bring people together in prayer and dialogue to begin anew the vital work of fostering healing and lasting peace."
Archbishop Gregory also stressed the significance of prayer as well as ecumenical and interfaith collaborations. The importance of solid models of engagement, particularly for at-risk young people, was a central component of the Task Force's findings.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, appointed the Special Task Force in July after incidents of violence and racial tension spread throughout communities across the United States.
A national Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities took place on September 9. Celebrated on the feast day of St. Peter Claver (1580-1654), a Jesuit missionary from Spain who worked tirelessly to care spiritually and materially for Africans who were being sold as slaves, supporting the Day of Prayer was a key responsibility for the Task Force.
Today's update by Archbishop Gregory offers recommendations for the bishops both at the local and national level. Some of these include: conducting local dialogues, parish-based and diocesan conversations and training, fostering opportunities for encounter, making permanent the National Day of Prayer, providing ongoing prayer resources, issuing statements on racism and unity, greater collaboration within the Conference, and grassroots efforts by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, among other things.
Other members of the task force included: 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 also included numerous bishop consultants whose jurisdictions have experienced extreme violence, or who otherwise bring special insight or experience to bear on related questions. A number of lay consultants with relevant expertise were also appointed to the Task Force.
Results and recommendations of the working group will be presented to the USCCB Administrative Committee at a later date.