Arlington’s Catholic leader asks advisory panel for ‘action plan’ to address racism

Catholics across Virginia are being called on to confront racism in their communities.

The Catholic Diocese of Arlington has established a 14-member council to advise Bishop Michael Burbidge on racism and look for “actionable” ways to right the wrong of systemic racism and promote the wellbeing of all people.

“There is no room for racism in our lives,” said Burbidge, who has named priests, deacons and laypeople from churches across the Diocese to the council, including representatives from St. Joseph in Alexandria, St. Jude in Fredericksburg, Saint Leo The Great in Fairfax and Nativity in Burke.

The council will be guided by the 2018 pastoral letter against racism by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The pastoral letter, entitled “Open Wide Our Hearts, The Enduring Call to Love,” calls on the faithful to overcome racism and to love one another equally.

“We know what we have to do,” Burbidge said. “We have to acknowledge that this an evil. We have to be attentive; we have to listen to the stories of people who have been part of this. We have to accompany them in their pain.” 

The Bishop’s Advisory Council on Racism is expected to hold its first meeting later this month and conduct regular meetings in the months ahead. They will attempt to identify incidents of racism, the hurt it has caused, and find paths toward reconciliation.

Burbidge expects the council to develop concrete plans to ensure all people are treated with respect and that all schools and parishes do not tolerate bigotry and discrimination.

“It’s not a think tank; it’s not a strategic plan that’s going to sit on the shelf. It’s a call to implementation and action to address the evil of racism,” Burbidge said.

“We have to acknowledge that there have been failures; that there are wounds that still need to be healed and for us to take an honest look at who we are and what we’re doing, what might have to change and how can we transform hearts,” he said.

Other parishes with representatives on the Bishop’s council are St. Thomas More, Arlington, St. Timothy’s, Chantilly; St. Mark’s, Vienna; St. Anthony’s, Falls Church; Holy Trinity, Gainesville and Holy Family, Dale City.

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