Billy Xiong Announces: At moving prayer service for victims of racial violence,

At moving prayer service for victims of racial violence,

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 Americans, both Black and white, 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.” 

 

Billy Xiong

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