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US Catholic bishops approve pastoral letter against racism

US Catholic bishops approve pastoral letter against racism

Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

19 November 2018

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved on 14 November the formal statement, “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love,” a pastoral letter against racism.

The USCCB Cultural Diversity in the Church Committee led the letter’s drafting and guided it through the voting process. Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, of Houma-Thibodaux, chairman of US Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and Chair of the Sub-committee on African American Affairs within the Cultural Diversity Committee, issued the following statement:

“The entire body of bishops felt the need to address the topic of racism, once again, after witnessing the deterioration of the public discourse, and episodes of violence and animosity with racial and xenophobic overtones, that have re-emerged in American society in the last few years. Pastoral letters from the full body of bishops are rare, few and far between. But at key moments in history, the bishops have come together for important pronouncements, paying attention to a particular issue and with the intention of offering a Christian response, full of hope, to the problems of our time. This is such a time.”

“Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love” is addressed to lay faithful and all people of goodwill, and it asks people to recall that they are all brothers and sisters, all equally made in the image of God.

“Racism arises when—either consciously or unconsciously—a person holds that his or her own race or ethnicity is superior, and therefore judges persons of other races or ethnicities as inferior and unworthy of equal regard,” the letter reads. “When this conviction or attitude leads individuals or groups to exclude, ridicule, mistreat, or unjustly discriminate against persons on the basis of their race or ethnicity, it is sinful.”

The letter notes that racist acts are sinful because they violate justice.

“Racism occurs because a person ignores the fundamental truth that, because all humans share a common origin, they are all brothers and sisters, all equally made in the image of God,” the letter reads. “When this truth is ignored, the consequence is prejudice and fear of the other, and—all too often—hatred.”

The letter also acknowledges that racism comes in many forms. “Racism can often be found in our hearts—in many cases placed there unwillingly or unknowingly by our upbringing and culture,” the letter reads. “As such, it can lead to thoughts and actions that we do not even see as racist, but nonetheless flow from the same prejudicial root.”

Full text of letter