By Associated Press - Monday, January 18, 2021

ROME (AP) - Pope Francis is honoring civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the commemoration of his birthday, saying his message of equality through peaceful means remains more timely than ever.

Francis sent a message of prayer Monday to King’s daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, with whom the pontiff met in 2018. He called for unity, not division, and extinguishing hatred and “not holding onto it.”

“In today’s world, which increasingly faces the challenges of social injustice, division and conflict that hinder the realization of the common good, Dr. King’s dream of harmony and equality for all people, attained through nonviolent and peaceful means, remains ever timely,” Francis wrote.

The Vatican has long spoken out about racial injustice, and popes dating to Paul VI have voiced support for King’s message of nonviolent protest and the civil rights movement. History’s first pope from the global south is no different.

Francis quoted King at length during his historic speech to the U.S. Congress in 2015, and spoke out last year in the aftermath of the protests spurred by the police killing of a Black man, George Floyd.

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