SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — Bishop Francis Malone, of the Diocese of Shreveport, has written a letter about racism in the United States.
It was read aloud at the end of every Mass celebrated Sunday in Catholic churches throughout North Louisiana.
“I felt it was my responsibility as bishop to address this particular issue as it relates to the treatment of people of color," Malone explained. “We have this history that isn’t a very pleasant history of how we deal with people who are just different from those of us who are white.
"I just wanted to bring that to the attention of those whom I am responsible for. Just to remind them that these are our brothers and sisters. They are equal and that we should treat them as if they are.”
There may be some negative comments, but Malone said his message overall has been well received.
“There are those who say we shouldn’t bring issues like this into a religious service and should only talk about things that are related to the Catholic Church," the bishop said.
“But we don’t surrender our citizenship at the church doors. And for that reason, especially, that it’s incumbent upon church leaders to speak out. I’ve received almost universally positive comments.”
Malone said he wants people to know that other faith leaders in the area feel the same way. “We are a far more unified community than most.
"I just pray that we will continue to capitalize on that spiritual synergy to draw our people closer together in this one great mission of seeing each other as equals.”
Following is the text of Malone’s letter:
"My dear brothers and sisters,
"To be sure, there has been more than enough to distract us during these months of the COVID-19 virus. So much so, that it would be easy to forget that there are other ‘life’ issues that continue to surround us, and which we must address with the same ardor as with this pandemic. I speak to you about the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd, of Minneapolis, this past week by members of the Minneapolis Police Department, and the response of many communities in our country to the taking of his life.
"As a student of history, I recall that what was promised in the 19th century in the condemnation of slavery, what was enacted in legislature in the early 1960s with the Civil Rights Act, and in the subsequent fight for equal treatment of people of color since then, clearly, there has not been enough to convert the minds of many Americans when it comes to their treatment and attitude towards people of color in our country. Minneapolis is a symptom of the reality that racism continues today much as it has in the past. Racism is not only an evil mindset, it runs so counter to the gospel as to leave us with the question as to why it continues to manifest itself in our day, in this day, in this past week. It is unconscionable for us as a society to allow events such as this to go without comment, and for the African-American community not to hear from us.
"The death of George Floyd, so visible in the news, is by any standard offensive and abhorrent to the very heart of who we are a brothers and sisters in the local and larger community. We must not consider this just another news story, nor should we turn a deaf ear to the voices of many communities throughout the country who cry out in pain for justice for Mr. Floyd, for his family and community, and for those who still feel the sting of racism in our country. And certainly there are those many communities who live in fear that their constitutional right to peaceful protest is met with further opposition which only exacerbates, makes worse, the pain of stating that all lives matter, and all life is sacred.
"I was struck with emotion as I watched on the news Mr. Floyd begging, “I can’t breathe,” over and over again, until he could breathe no more. Those words are symptomatic of the justifiable mindset and reaction of those who have and remain targets of racism – they are suffocating, their voices are often silenced, the violence begets more violence. When will it end?
"As your bishop, I ask you, I beg you to see in the faces of your brothers and sisters, of whatever color or ethnicity, the face of Jesus. I ask you to join me in praying for justice in the face of evil. I ask you to pray for the repose of the soul of Mr. Floyd, for his family who mourns his death, for the community of Minneapolis, and for the increased numbers of communities throughout our country where voices are being raised in protest this weekend. We pray for a peaceful response to this tragedy – but for a strong response nonetheless
"And finally, let us never, never forget, that this situation is a “life” situation, demanding of us the same level of response we should give as Catholics to all life issues we face. Failing to do this will only embolden the insipid evil of racism to continue. In the name of Jesus, I proclaim that “It can not – and it must not be this way!”
“Your brother in Christ,
"Francis I. Malone, Bishop of Shreveport”