Bishops ask for prayers for peace, justice on Charlottesville anniversary

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RICHMOND — As the first anniversary of violence stemming from protests and counter-protests regarding the removal of Confederate monuments from Charlottesville approached, Richmond Bishop Barry C. Knestout 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."

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge also issued a statement Aug. 10 about the anniversary.

"As we mark the first anniversary of the violence that took place in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017, in solidarity with Bishop Barry Knestout of the Diocese of Richmond, I call upon all Catholics and people of good will to pray for peace in our nation, and for an end to the division that is caused by racism and prejudice," said Bishop Burbidge. "We must shine a light on injustice, be advocates for those who are victims of discrimination, and continue to affirm the dignity of every human person as we are all created in the image and likeness of God."

"We pray to our Lady, Queen and Peace, for unity and harmony in our communities, in our nation, and our world, recalling that it is only through her Son, Jesus Christ, that true healing and peace are ours."

Bishop Knestout 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 should 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."

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

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018