Our website is made possible by displaying online ads to our visitors.
Please consider supporting us by whitelisting our site.

At prayer service for victims of racial violence, Bishop Burbidge announces new advisory council

First slide
First slide
First slide
First slide
First slide
First slide
First slide
First slide
Previous Next

In a moving prayer service titled “Requiem for the Black Children of God,” Bishop Michael F. Burbidge called on Catholics to “find the courage to no longer be silent” about racism, but to speak out, and make “the example of our lives reflect reverence for the sacredness of each and every human life.”

“We acknowledge the darkness of having failed to hear and act on the cries of our Black brothers and sisters,” he said, adding that “God hears those who cry out to him… With God’s grace and blessing, we will find the courage to no longer be silent, to come out from under the bushel basket and to carry the light of Christ before others.”

The Aug. 1 service, livestreamed from the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, was hosted by diocesan Black Catholic Ministries and the Office of Multicultural Ministries and included a solemn reading of the names of 55 Black men and women “who have suffered and who have died from acts of racial injustice, acts of hatred, and acts of violence.” 

The long list starting with Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 for offending a white woman, and ended with George Floyd, who died on Memorial Day after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes. With the calling of each name, a bell was rung. 

Bishop Burbidge said our nation is “in darkness,” and acknowledged that prayer services and conferences, such as those planned later this month and in March, “will never be enough. Working together to eradicate racism is an ongoing process rooted in faith and hope.” 

To the applause of those present, he announced that he plans to create an advisory council of Black leaders throughout the diocese “that will help me to develop a strategic plan addressing racism within our diocese and beyond.” 

Bishop Burbidge referenced the death of George Floyd and the continuing nationwide protests in which people have carried signs quoting Floyd’s last words. 

“Dying cries such as ‘I can’t breathe’ have become the symbol of the oppression that our Black brothers and sisters have faced for generations, crushed by slavery, segregation, horrifying acts of violence and hatred, and aggressions in day-to-day life,” Bishop Burbidge said. 

But he added that “In faith, we know that the cries of the oppressed are united to Christ’s cries of ‘I thirst,’ ‘Why have you forsaken me,’ and ‘Into your hands I commend my spirit.’ 

In the midst of the darkness, we do not despair. We cannot despair. We are people of faith, who have confident hope in the transforming power of Christ and his Gospel of Life. The Gospel of Life proclaims that God has created all of us in his image and likeness and that we are members of his holy family. Dear friends, we will only see the progress for which we long when these truths penetrate our hearts and the hearts of others.” 

He quoted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2018 pastoral letter against racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts,” saying “What is needed, and what we are calling for, is a genuine conversion that will compel change, and the reform of our institutions and society.” 

Bishop Burbidge said that carrying the light of Christ before others means that Catholics must “courageously bring our faith into the public arena and denounce abuses of power and all forms of violence. Violence will never be the path to peace.” He said we must hold our elected officials accountable “to uphold peace in our nation and justice for all people. All of this must begin in prayer, by which we are renewed in our commitment to carry the light of Christ to all we meet.”

During the intercessory prayers portion of the service, Deacon Albert A. Anderson Jr. of St. Joseph Church in Alexandria added prayers “for those who dedicated their lives in the struggle for justice, and for the repose of the soul of U.S. congressman John Lewis, who worked tirelessly for justice for Black women and men in our country.” Lewis died July 17. 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020