The U.S. bishops are encouraging commemorations of the 50th anniversary of milestones in the African-American Civil Rights Movement, saying they should inspire further work for the common good. “The Civil Rights Era was an important time in the history of our country,” Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, La., said Aug. 25. “In constructive ways, many priests, religious sisters, religious brothers and lay Catholic faithful were involved in the struggle for civil rights.” “Recalling the Catholic Church’s past participation in these important historic moments serves to challenge the faithful to work constructively today to enhance the common good for people of all races and ethnicities,” said the bishop, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee on African-American Affairs. Over the next year, the bishops’ subcommittee will remember the Mississippi Freedom Summer advocacy campaign of June-August 1964, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the civil rights march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery held in March 1965, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The bishops’ subcommittee will release blog posts and video clips, as well as suggest practical ideas to engage the Catholic community during the commemorations at the parish, school, and small group levels. Prayer and catechetical resources, as well as a calendar of diocesan events, will also be provided, the U.S. bishops’ conference said. The resources aim to promote dialogue through examining how the Civil Rights Movement influenced contemporary multicultural relations. The effort will help people consider the movement’s historical legacy and will help highlight the role the Catholic Church and Catholic leaders played in it. Reflections on Catholic social teaching should also play a role in the commemorations, Bishop Fabre said. “Reflecting upon the Church’s social teachings from the perspective of the history of civil rights is an opportunity to become more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ as we strive to live these social teachings today and share them with others,” he said. The resources may be accessed at the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in the Issues and Action section’s Cultural Diversity subsection. Blog posts commemorating the civil rights anniversaries will be posted at usccbmedia.blogspot.com.
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