Racial justice charter calls for 'truly inclusive' church

 A Catholic Racial Justice congress, meeting at Southlands College last weekend, completed its deliberations by issuing a Charter for 'a truly inclusive church'. Over three days of celebration and debate, delegates had listened to the different perspectives of an English Peer, an African American theologian and a priest from the Caribbean reflecting on the theme People of Colour, People of God. Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor also addressed the ethnically mixed gathering of Catholics from across the dioceses of England and Wales. The event was organised by the Catholic Association for Racial Justice (CARJ). The 300 delegates to the Congress drew up a new Charter in which they committed themselves to "create communities in which strangers are welcomed, where differences can be celebrated, and all people are valued." A further commitment was "to identify, recognize, and utilize the knowledge, skills, experience and competence of people from black and minority ethnic communities at all levels and to work to remove obstacles that may prevent them from taking on roles of responsibility and leadership in the Church and in society." The CARJ Congress heard from Baroness Patricia Scotland, a Home Office minister, who described her own experience as a black woman in government and outlined some of the steps the government is taking to address the race equality agenda. She pointed to the operation of the Stephen Lawrence Working Group in the Home Office as an example of how seriously the issue is being taken. Baroness Scotland was also keen to emphasise a new Home Office working group to work with faith groups in the community. She acknowledged that more needs to be done to empower ethnic minority groups across Whitehall."More and more across Whitehall there is a focus on how you get inclusion and diversity. Blacks and whites need to join together and say they want change," said Baroness Scotland. Dr Diana Hayes, an African American theologian, claimed that progress in the US has been achieved due to "the perseverance and persistence" of Black Catholics. Dr Hayes described the progress Black Catholics in America had made. Recently Bishop Wilton Gregory was elected the first Black President of the US Bishop's Conference. "There are 13 Black bishops of whom 3 are heads of dioceses. There are offices of Black Catholics in almost every diocese and a Secretariat in the Bishop's Conference," said Dr Hayes. She claimed that Black Catholics had only gained this representation due to "their perseverance and persistence." She went on to emphasis "that racism still persists in the US, in the UK, throughout the world. It is a mindset that flies in the face of sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Christian Church." Trinidadian priest, Fr Jason Gordon, received a standing ovation after an address which combined theological reflection with an analysis of the historical and structural complexities of international racism. Fr Gordon spoke of the inequalities of race, class and gender as a three headed monster. 'The matrix of race, class and gender are not in keeping with the Kingdom of God' said Fr Gordon. He warned delegates that if they wanted a truly inclusive society 'there is a cross to be born' and that they should not expect success in the short term. He challenged them to work patiently to prepare the soil for a kairos moment when significant change would take place. Fr Jordan said some communities needed an outside enemy in order to create internal cohesion. In England, the Irish were seen as a threat, then overseas immigrants. Today asylum seekers are the external threat. Fr Gordon, who studied in the UK, said he was appalled that, at least until four years ago when he completed his theological studies, the formation that goes on in the seminaries includes no multicultural education. Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor opened the Congress with a short address and celebrated Mass for the assembly on the closing day. In his opening talk the Cardinal acknowledged the importance of institutional racism for all in our society. He told delegates that they were right in calling for a truly inclusive church and argued that this must begin at the local level. 'this question has to be addressed at all levels of the Church, but frankly most especially at the local level, because that is where the Spirit works most intently. That is where change happens,' said Cardinal Murphy O'Connor. Source: CARJ

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