Americans must recommit to the fight against racism through love and faith, said the head of the U.S. bishops’ conference in the days leading up to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
“In recent years – including last summer in Charlottesville – we have glimpsed an appalling truth that lurks beneath the surface of our culture. Even with all the progress our country has made on the issue, racism remains a living reality,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a Jan. 10 statement.
“As our nation celebrates the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. we are given an important time to recommit ourselves to the Gospel message he preached, that the sin of racism can be defeated by active love and the light of faith,” DiNardo continued.
The U.S. honors the legacy of Dr. King by marking the third Monday of January as MLK Day – an American federal holiday. Celebrations throughout the country commend his life and achievements in the name of equality and civil rights.
Cardinal DiNardo quoted Dr. King’s 1958 essay, in which the civil rights leader said: “Along the way of life, someone must have the sense enough and the morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethics of love to the center of our lives.”
In today’s world, DiNardo said, “breaking the chain of hate” requires not only courage, but also commitment. In addition to Dr. King’s witness, the cardinal pointed to the example of Sr. Mary Antona Ebo, a Franciscan sister who was the first African-American nun to march with Dr. King during the famous Selma to Montgomery march in 1965.
Sr. Ebo is known to have said that she marched because she was “a Negro, a nun, a Catholic, and because I want to bear witness.” She died last year at the age of 93.
“She remained a bold and dedicated champion of civil rights throughout her lifetime, and her witness should inspire our own,” DiNardo said.
He challenged Americans to renew their commitment to human dignity by following the examples of Dr. King and Sr. Ebo, working to end the plague of racism and hatred.
“We pray in confidence that Jesus Christ will remind us all that he is the most powerful means to break the chains of hate that still bind too many hearts, a truth which lies at the center of Dr. King’s legacy,” DiNardo said.
“Our challenge is to bring Dr. King’s message into the present moment in a way that inspires lasting change.”
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