U.S. bishops say that prayer, local dialogue key to bringing peace

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Catholic Church has a “tremendous
responsibility to bring people together in prayer and dialogue, to begin anew
the vital work of fostering healing and lasting peace,” said a report by a
U.S. bishops’ task force released Jan. 5 in the wake of last year’s incidents
of violence and racial tensions.

work to “root out racism and create healthy dynamics in our neighborhoods”
is a long-term project, but the scope of it should not cause fear or
intimidation, wrote Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, chairman of the Task
Force to Promote Peace in Our Communities, in the report’s introduction.

He also
said “the church is at her absolute best when she is a bold and prophetic
voice for the power of the love upon which our faith is based, the love of Jesus Christ.”

task force is taking on a broad issue, but in its report, it breaks down what
needs to be done into a few recommendations to the U.S. bishops, urging them to
focus on:

— Prayer:
Masses, rosaries, prayer services during the year.

— Local
dialogues: conversations on race and dialogues hosted by parishes or dioceses.

— Parish
and diocesan training: intercultural competence training for staff and

— Opportunities
for encounter: providing forums for people to examine local challenges

— Support of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which funds group that
address concerns about race, poverty and violence.

group also recommended that the National Day of Prayer for Peace in our
Communities be an annual observance, urged U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop committees to provide
resources for racial healing and stressed that a statement on racism from the
bishops was “more important than ever.”

summary of the findings of the task force — convened last year by Archbishop
Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, then president of the USCCB — was presented to the U.S. bishops in November at their fall assembly in Baltimore.

The full
report — online at https://bit.ly/2iMX8rS — highlights
some of the activities promoted by the task force last year, including the
nationwide celebration of a Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities Sept. 9
and listening sessions and interviews between members of the task force and
community members.

describing some of the discussions that took place among task force members —
both bishops and lay leaders — the report notes that there is not a one-time
solution for overcoming racism and violence.

stressing the work ahead, the task force praised previous bishops’ statements
on racism, but said they were “not sufficient to address the difficulties
of the moment.” It also urged Catholics to look at where they might be
contributing to race issues “from hiring practices to parish and school

The group
stressed that the church should continue to pray for the challenges facing
communities not just “in the heat of a tragic moment” but throughout
the year.

also summarized some interviews that took place with individuals on the topic
of building peaceful communities. In discussions with police officers, for
example, one person said he had started a program where each church in his area was responsible
for what happened within a one-mile radius of their church building and church
members were trained on how to engage in conversations that would build
community dialogue.

police officer stressed that parishes could plan events in various
neighborhoods to give police officers and residents a chance to sit and

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Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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