- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A delegation of faith leaders involved with the social justice movement is in the Vatican this week to make sure concerns are brought up at a major Catholic assembly on families later this year.

On Wednesday, U.S. bishops approved a statement on race relations that the faith leaders felt was inspired, at least in part, by their calls for improvement.

“We believe the work of justice is the result of faithful discipleship after the ways of Jesus,” the Rev. Traci Blackmon, pastor of Christ the King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Missouri, and Pastor Michael McBride, an official with the PICO National Network, wrote for the Huffington Post on Monday.

The PICO delegation of 14 faith leaders and activists said Tuesday they met with Pope Francis’ top advisers in Rome.

Their visit was part of a national effort to highlight “economic exclusion,” racism, low wages, criminalization of people of color, police brutality and “the immigration deportation machine” as factors that are “really hurting families in America,” PICO officials said in a statement.

“We want to push out” the voices of black Protestants, immigrants and others who experience police brutality and racial injustice “to make the point that you can’t talk about strengthening families in America, poverty or any other issue in this nation without talking about race,” said Bishop Dwayne Royster, executive director of Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild.

On Wednesday, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, KY, and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, read a statement on race relations at their general assembly meeting.

The Catholic Church has long been at the forefront of promoting justice in racial tensions, and “[i]t is time for us to do it again,” Archbishop Kurtz said.

The “five concrete ways” the Catholic community can use to end racism and promote peace, justice and respect for all persons, includes: prayer, studying the Word of God on the dignity of all persons, befriending people of different racial backgrounds, and making Catholic parishes more welcoming of people of different racial and religious backgrounds.

The fifth way is to for Catholics to meet and offer support and gratitude to local law enforcement officials, and “encourage young people to respect all legitimate authority.”

PICO said Wednesday that it “cannot take credit” for such a statement, but “we do believe that our visit to Vatican City and our activities to call out the largest religious institution in the world for a response to racism in the U.S. have played a major part in today’s announcement.”

Francis is scheduled to attend the World Meeting of Families 2015 (WMOF), which will be held Sept. 22-27 in Philadelphia. The WMOF gatherings, created by St. John Paul II, are intended to strengthen “the sacred bonds of families across the globe” and be a witness to the importance of family to society, according to organizers.



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