Bishop asks for prayers for peace, justice on Charlottesville anniversary

IMAGE: CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters

By Brian T. Olszewski

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) — As the
first anniversary of violence stemming from protests and counter-protests
regarding the removal of Confederate monuments from Charlottesville approached,
Bishop Barry C. Knestout of Richmond asked people to pray for justice, peace
and an end to racism on the Aug. 12 anniversary.

“As the anniversary will draw
much national and local attention, I am concerned it will be approached with
provocative rhetoric rather than provide an opportunity for prayer and dialogue
about racism, and the action needed to overcome it,” the bishop wrote in his
“Christ Our Hope” column in the July 30 issue of The Catholic Virginian, publication
of the Richmond Diocese, in which Charlottesville is located.

Noting that racism is a sin,
Bishop Knestout wrote, “The church cannot be silent about racism. Prayer —
individually and as a faith community — is a start in our addressing racism.
It cannot be an occasional act; we should pray about it in our daily lives and
in faith community gatherings.”

He invited Catholics to pray via
teleconference the “Rosary for Racial Justice and Reconciliation,” which has
been hosted every first Friday over the past year by the Diocese of Richmond’s
Office for Black Catholics and Office of Social Ministries.

“As we speak and listen, we need
to examine our individual and collective consciences about this sin,” Bishop
Knestout wrote. “Our prayer, dialogue and examination of conscience should lead
to action — individual and community action based upon Scripture, our
commitment to social justice, and the dignity of the human person.”

Once Catholics admit racism is a
sin, the bishop noted, they have another obligation.

“Catholics are obliged to seek reconciliation
with God and with the victims of racism,” he wrote. “Our commitment to
reconciliation involves a willingness to improve; it involves action.”

Bishop Knestout said prayers
could not be limited to Aug. 12.

“Do not confine your prayer to
one day. Commit to praying, listening, learning, thinking and working for
peace, justice and an end to racism,” he wrote. “Our faith calls us to be
witnesses of the Gospel. Be that witness in working to eliminate racism within
our culture.”

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Olszewski is the editor of The
Catholic Virginian, newspaper of the Diocese of Richmond.

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