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US bishops set up task force to help deal with rise in racial tensions

22 July 2016 | by Catholic News Service , Nicholas Henshall

Task force to gather information and support clergy who find their communities blighted by violence

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta has been appointed as chair of a new task force of the US bishops to deal with racial issues brought into public consciousness following a series of fatal shootings in the last few months that left both citizens and police officers among those dead.

The task force's charge includes helping bishops to engage directly with the challenging problems highlighted by the shootings. Task force members will gather and distribute supportive resources and "best practices" for their fellow bishops; actively listening to the concerns of members in troubled communities and law enforcement; and build strong relationships to help prevent and resolve conflicts.

"By stepping forward to embrace the suffering, through unified, concrete action animated by the love of Christ, we hope to nurture peace and build bridges of communication and mutual aid in our own communities," said a statement from Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In addition to creating the task force and appointing its members, Archbishop Kurtz also called for a national day of prayer for peace in our communities, to be held on 9 September, the feast of St. Peter Claver.

Archbishop Gregory is a former USCCB president. Other task force members are 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 Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development; and retired Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, who is president of the National Black Catholic Congress.

The day of prayer, according to a 21 July USCCB announcement about the task force's formation, will "serve as a focal point for the work of the task force."

The task force's work will conclude with the USCCB's fall general meeting in November, at which time it will report on its activities and recommendations for future work.

"I have stressed the need to look toward additional ways of nurturing an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence," Archbishop Kurtz said. "The day of prayer and special task force will help us advance in that direction."

The task force will have bishop consultants, including Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who is USCCB vice president, as well as bishops whose jurisdictions have experienced extreme gun violence, or who otherwise bring special insight or experience on related questions. An equal or smaller number of lay consultants with relevant expertise will be appointed soon thereafter, the USCCB announcement said.

"I am honored to lead this task force which will assist my brother bishops, individually and as a group, to accompany suffering communities on the path toward peace and reconciliation," said Archbishop Gregory in a July 21 statement. "We are one body in Christ, so we must walk with our brothers and sisters and renew our commitment to promote healing. The suffering is not somewhere else, or someone else's; it is our own, in our very dioceses."



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