15 November 2016, The Tablet

Taskforce urges US bishops to make a quick decision on rise of racism

US bishops force the country's racism issue on to the agenda at their autumn conference this week

US bishops need to publish their thoughts on racism sooner rather than later to help calm the "post-election uncertainty" and rising tensions following the election of Donald Trump, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta urged his fellow Catholic bishops gathered in Baltimore at the US Conference of Catholic Bishop's autumn general assembly.

"The Church has a tremendous opportunity, and an equally tremendous responsibility, to bring people together in prayer and dialogue to begin anew the vital work of fostering healing and lasting peace," Gregory said on Monday.

Last year, the bishops conference created the taskforce as it became clear that the US was suffering a fissure along the lines of race and a response would be needed - particularly as both sides - the mainly white US police force and its supporters, and the disaffected among the poorer, mainly black men, felt victimised by the police.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, of Louisville, Kentucky, as president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops wanted the taskforce to look for ways they could help the suffering communities, as well as police affected by the incidents. He urged prayer, ecumenical and interfaith collaboration, dialogues, as well as parish-based and diocesan conversations and training, and providing opportunities for encounter.

Meanwhile head of the taskforce, Gregory, in a news conference that followed presentation at the end of the first day of the bishops' assembly, Gregory said communities that were disrupted by violence and riots after the police shootings, prompting a calling for healing from the church, are now seeing recent and highly public reactions to tensions brought about by the election results.

"It's the hope of the task force, of people of goodwill, that the demonstrations, don't turn violent," he said. American society has the ability to express opinion on social matters through various forms of expression, including protests, but "what we pray for is that those expressions of frustrations don't provide another vehicle for violence."

Tensions had been high enough in July, when Kurtz had said the Catholic Church needed to "walk with and help these suffering communities" that had been affected by the shootings and the riots protesting them that followed.

"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," Kurtz said at the time. He said he wanted the work of the task force to help embrace the suffering of the communities, to nurture peace and build bridges of communication and mutual aid in local communities.

The recommendations, said Gregory on Monday, were examined before the recent elections and all the tensions and protests that have followed. The recommendations were related to race and violence issues related to the summer shootings and riots.

But Gregory expressed hope that the Church could help foster dialogue and bring healing by working with communities for a lasting peace.

Other members of the task force included:  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 John H. Ricard, SSJ, Bishop Emeritus of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, former chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Church in Africa, member of the USCCB Subcommittee for African American Affairs, and member of the board of the National Black Catholic Congress; and Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).

PICTURE - Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, listens to a presentation at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' annual autumn meeting in Baltimore. The bishops opened their meeting by urging President-elect Donald Trump to adopt humane policies toward immigrants and refugee


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