Archbishop Robert J. Carlson and other members of the local Catholic community are calling for prayer, peace and action following the death of George Floyd and subsequent unrest in cities across the United States.
In a video posted online June 3, Archbishop Carlson said that “As people of faith, we begin with the fact that no matter the color of our skin, we are all made in the image and likeness of God. … We have lost our way as a nation because of prejudice and selfishness and jealousy. Recent events and protests are only the latest symptom of a longstanding and underlying cultural sickness. There is no moral framework for the fact that each of us has Christ in us and with us. Jesus wanted us to open our hearts to His powerful love, and be His face and voice and arms and ears for every person who crosses the path of our lives.”
The archbishop also said people must look at ways of accompanying others to develop their full potential through quality education that leads to employment and fair wages, pathways to progress for families in need of healing and structure, access to health care for the uninsured, helping people develop skills and find jobs, rehabbing houses in distress to provide affordable housing, support for people experiencing homelessness and mental health services. He said we must also look at why people do not have access to these things and that we must listen to people of color to better understand their experiences and how to walk with them.
Joyce Jones, program director for racial harmony in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, wrote in this week’s edition that Christians must fight the evil of racism. (See page 18). “We cannot remain silent when we see acts of violence and inhumanity continuously being raged against our brothers and sisters,” she wrote. “We must recognize and work to dismantle the systems that are in place to perpetuate this sin of racism. We must choose life at all costs.”
The Missouri bishops issued a statement expressing their anger and sadness at the death of George Floyd and called on systemic changes to address racial and ethnic injustices. The bishops also denounced police brutality, especially that motivated by racism, as well as the destruction of property and violence as a means of countering violence.
“This tragedy tears open a wound that hasn’t completely healed in Missouri following the death of Michael Brown,” they wrote. “Racial and ethnic injustice continues to exist in our state and in our country, and we cannot turn a blind eye to it. We must also honestly examine our hearts and ask God to eradicate any vestige of it that might lie there. We cannot do this on our own. No human power can eradicate racism; we need the assistance of a higher power.
“We call upon Catholics and people of goodwill to pray for an end to racism, bias, and prejudice within ourselves and within our communities,” they continued. “Recalling the gift of Pentecost celebrated this past weekend, through which God sends the Holy Spirit to unite a scattered and divided human family, may the Holy Spirit guide us into all truth concerning the dignity of every human person, and may Jesus Christ gather us together into fellowship with the Father.”
Several communities of women religious called for a citywide day of prayer, mourning and self-examination on June 6, to reflect on racism and how people are called individually and as communities to take action. The letter included the leadership teams of the Daughters of Charity, Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Sisters of Loretto, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O’Fallon and the Ursuline Sisters.
“Racism is the original and persistent sin of the United States,” they wrote, adding the names of unarmed black people who have been killed by police or armed members of the public, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Tony Robinson and Trayvon Martin. “Our racist system targets people of color for poverty, imprisonment, violence, and death. Primarily white institutions police black communities and communities of color. Primarily white institutions hold power in a criminal justice system that utterly fails to impose accountability on police officials and armed white citizens who kill unarmed black people. There is no justice. How, then, can there be peace?”
>> Online resources
Forward Through Ferguson: forwardthroughferguson.org
“Living Beyond Discouragement” an online ecumenical listening session, will take place from 6:30-8 p.m. Thursday, June 11. Panelists include Father Christopher Collins, SJ, of Saint Louis University, Danielle Harrison, equity and inclusion consultant; Rev. Gabrielle Kennedy, director of Faith and For the Sake of All; Rev. Steve Lawler, director of the Walker Leadership Institute at Eden Theological Seminary; and Rev. Charles “Chuck” Norris, pastor of St. James AME Church in St. Louis. To attend, visit bit.ly/3eQW6EB. The meeting ID is 875 9048 7309 and the password is 9H8EGD.