Racial tensions this summer in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas prompted Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to call for a National Day of Prayer for Peace Sept. 9. Dioceses across the country marked the occasion in different ways.
Father Thomas P. Ferguson, vicar general and moderator of the curia, celebrated the 12:05 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.
St. Peter Claver, whose feast day was the same day, “understood each person has human dignity that needs to be respected,” Father Ferguson said. “St. Peter Claver recognized that the preparations on Earth to be at peace are ultimately preparation for the peace that is eternal.”
Father Ferguson reflected on the words of the song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”
“Any time we find ourselves singing let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me, I often wonder how often do we stop and think what that means,” he said. “It takes commitment on our part.”
Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde invited all parishes in the diocese with bells to ring them at 3 p.m. as a sign of solidarity to mark the National Day of Prayer for Peace.
The diocesan Black Catholic Ministries hosted a Rosary Across America conference call in recognition of the day. People from across the country were invited to call in.
Archbishop Kurtz appointed a special task force to help bishops “engage the challenging problems connected with race relations,” according to a news release from the USCCB. The task force is chaired by Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, former USCCB president. Other members are Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Social Development; Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, La., chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for African American Affairs; Bishop John H. Ricard, S.S.J., bishop emeritus of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla., 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, Calif., chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).
"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 in the press release. "The Day of Prayer and special Task Force will help us advance in that direction. 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."
Elliott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.