In our diversity, we must work together to heal division

| Archbishop Bernard Hebda | July 21, 2016
Archbishop Bernard Hebda, center, reads a prayer during the Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice at the Cathedral of St. Paul July 8. At left is Deacon Phil Stewart. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Archbishop Bernard Hebda, center, reads a prayer during the Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice at the Cathedral of St. Paul July 8. At left is Deacon Phil Stewart. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Out on the East Coast for a family wedding, I found everyone asking about Frogtown and the incredibly rich cultural diversity of the Twin Cities. I had been speaking about this for a year but no one seemed to take note until the New York Times ran an article in last the July 10 edition’s travel section on St. Paul — go figure!

We indeed live in a region that is surprisingly diverse: ethnically, linguistically, religiously and racially. As I heard so often in our listening sessions, there is a great pride in that diversity. At the same time, we are keenly aware of ongoing tensions and prejudices along some of those divides. We recognize that we are very much a “work in progress” as we strive to build a society grounded on mutual respect and tolerance.

As Catholics, we have a great deal to contribute to that effort and discussion. As members of a Church that is truly universal, we’re at our heart multicultural, multilingual and multiracial. We’re part of a Church that’s already engaged in a rich dialogue with other Christians, with the Jewish and Muslim communities, with representatives from the other great world religious traditions and even with non-believers.

When a bishop is assigned to a diocese or a pastor to a parish, he’s assigned to offer pastoral care to all of the “souls” in that territory, not just the Catholics. In his powerful exchange with the Canaanite woman at the well and his preaching on the Good Samaritan, Jesus gives us good examples of the outreach expected of us.

Our Catholic understanding of the dignity of the human person, rooted in the assurance that all of us are created in the image and likeness of God, calls us to be men and women who work to heal divisions. St. John Paul II noted that the Catholic Church, which embraces men and women “of every nation, race, people and tongue” (Rev 7:9) is called to be, “in a world marked by ideological, ethnic, economic and cultural divisions,” the “living sign of the unity of the human family.”

Pope Francis similarly keeps reminding us that ours is a Church of inclusion rather than exclusion. The doors of our churches are wide open, not only so that we can go out to bring the Gospel to the peripheries, but also that all might come to experience our churches as places for encountering our God’s welcoming and transformative embrace.

Our commitment to welcoming others has to be more than lip service. The Holy Father calls us to be proactive in promoting “a culture of encounter, respect, understanding and mutual forgiveness.” Moreover, we have to be willing to examine our conscience to see where we, whether as individuals or collectively, have allowed the sin of prejudice or unjust discrimination to keep us from being the instruments of unity that we were created to be. . . . As noted in paragraph 1935 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.” How blessed we are to have a patient God who loves us in spite of our sins.

One of my predecessors, Archbishop Harry Flynn, wrote a powerful pastoral letter on the subject of racism — “In God’s Image” — that seems as relevant today as when it was published in 2003. I’m grateful that it continues to appear on our archdiocesan website, and I would encourage all of us to read it and re-read it as a helpful examination of conscience as we consider our involvement in sinful discrimination. I’m confident that we can make a difference.

I was recently delighted, for example, to receive a delegation from the African-American community in St. Paul who spoke with great admiration of Father Kevin McDonough’s impact on their community in the course of his 26 years as pastor of St. Peter Claver. I was moved by the fervent prayers of those who came to the Cathedral for the Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice. I was encouraged, moreover, that Philando Castile’s mother would have felt comfortable enough to request that the funeral of her son be held in our Cathedral, and inspired not only by the hospitality of Cathedral Rector Father John Ubel and his staff, but also the generosity of the St. Paul Police, who quietly embraced the logistical challenges that come with an event of that size.

I’m grateful that the archdiocese had the opportunity not only to share in a family’s grief but also to play a small role in bringing together men and women of many faith traditions, races and experiences to pray for a more vibrant unity, grounded in honesty and justice. May the Lord, in his mercy, hear those prayers.

En nuestra diversidad tenemos que trabajar juntos para sanar la división

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Category: Only Jesus

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