Bishop Richard Malone of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and Bishop R. William Franklin of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York have issued a joint pastoral letter to both Dioceses, calling on all members of both churches to take specific action to address issues of equality and economic justice in the Western New York region.
This letter is a follow up to their first joint pastoral letter in December of 2014.
The bishops note that too many people still struggle with income inequality, racial and gender discrimination, hunger and lack of opportunity for training, employment and advancement. They wrote, "All our lives are enriched when we live in a region of shared prosperity, generosity and justice."
The bishops call on every member of both churches to do three specific things to increase equality and economic justice, asking the members of their congregations to seek to change the world by changing themselves and the way they view the world, calling on each member to:
• Spend $20 this summer in local economy. The bishops suggest, dine out at a local restaurant in Buffalo or explore the new waterfront; take a day trip to Niagara Falls; visit the villages along Chautauqua Lake.
• Attend an event this summer where they are not in the majority. They suggest that their congregations step outside their comfort zones and try different food; listen to unfamiliar music; visit an ethnic neighborhood festival; attend church where the parishioners worship in a different language.
• Pray for our region; pray for our leaders; pray for our nation; pray for someone from a different race or gender, by name, every day.
They also ask their parishioners to join with them in calling on the leaders of the public and private sectors to make broad changes that will improve the long term economic health of the region, by:
• Providing job training and support that will create the pools of skilled, reliable workers they need.
• Increasing employment opportunities for people living in poverty, people of color, refugees and people re-entering our community after incarceration. This is how we break the cycle of dependence and hopelessness.
• Reforming the criminal justice system to address the disproportionate number of people of color who are imprisoned.
• At the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, urging that neighborhood residents have access to job opportunities and that their voices be heard.
The bishops said, "We are more persuasive by how we act than by what we say. In prayer, may we ask ourselves how do we treat our neighbors? How do we use the gifts and powers with which God has blessed us?"
They encourage everyone to take the next steps on the path of transformation of ourselves and our communities.
The bishops remember that in Mark's Gospel, Jesus tells us that "those who do the will of my Father" are his family. They call on everyone to show the world what it means to be a member of the family of Christ.