BALTIMORE — Earlier this year, as communities faced tensions,
protests and violence, following a spate of shooting and killings of black men
by police, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, of Louisville, Kentucky, as
president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, asked dioceses across the
country to observe a day of prayer for peace.
He also wanted the bishops to look for ways they could help the
suffering communities, as well as police affected by the incidents.
To that end, he appointed a special task force to explore ways of
promoting peace and healing around the country and named by Archbishop Wilton
D. Gregory of Atlanta to head it.
On Nov. 14, Archbishop Gregory urged bishops gathered in
Baltimore at the USCCB's fall general assembly to issue, sooner rather than later,
a document on racism, given "postelection uncertainty" and that some
of the tensions have only gotten worse following the presidential election.
He urged prayer, ecumenical and interfaith collaboration,
dialogues, as well as parish-based and diocesan conversations and training, and
providing opportunities for encounter.
In a news conference that followed his afternoon presentation and
ended the first day of the bishops' assembly, Archbishop 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
"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
Tensions had been high enough in July, when Archbishop 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," Archbishop 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 Archbishop Gregory, 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 Archbishop Gregory expressed hope that the church could help
foster dialogue and bring healing by working with communities for a lasting