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Bishops, other church officials to hear witnesses to racism March 8

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A gathering of Midwestern bishops will hear from 25 “witnesses” about their experiences with racism, on March 8 and will be hosted at the University of Dayton (UD).

The group, which will include others besides the bishops, will hear a biracial couple relate their compelling, personal experience of racism: How, over time, they fell in love; married and didn’t realize how society would treat them and their children.

“They had to decide whether their children were going to be considered bi-racial or black. Our society says if you’re black, you’re black,” Deacon Royce Winters said. In our society, he added, you have to choose if you are going to live your life as a black person or a biracial person. “It’s one or the other,” said Deacon Winters, director of the archdiocesan African-American Pastoral Ministries.

“We’re not living in the 1800s. We’re not in the 1900s. We’re in the 21st century and there is still a stigma of people who are (interracially) married,” Deacon Winters said. “Remember there was a time in the Catholic Church when we talked about inter-racial marriage and mixed marriages that referred to marrying someone other than a Catholic. While we know that stigma has faded, it still remains real today.”

The meeting is part of a series of gatherings nationwide sponsored the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) titled a “Listening Event on Racism.” Deacon Winters explained the UD session is the third to be held. Others have been held at Providence College in Rhode Island and at St. Louis University.

Besides the bishops and diocesan staff, there have been invitations made to Catholic charities, local parishioners, Catholic leaders, seminarians, and members of the ad hoc committee on racism.

Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr will be welcoming Bishop Shelton Fabre, chair of the ad hoc committee on racism from Louisiana; Bishop Jeffery Montforton, of Steubenville, Bishop Timothy Doherty of Lafayette, Ind., and Archbishop Charles Thompson of Indianapolis to this gathering.

“The goal is for the bishops — religious brothers and sisters and lay people — to discuss the impact of racism in our lives,” Deacon Winters said. “Racism and bigotry were exposed in the event at Charlottesville,” involving white supremacist groups rising and rioting in protest, and it has reared its head in many ways in “other great cities of America. Therefore, the bishops feel compelled to address the evil that is racism in ways the church has not quite done before.”

Winters said that as early as 1979, there was a pastoral document addressing the evil of racism and the bishops today have reiterated it, “but also ask us to understand the church is using Catholic teaching to inform us of the dignity of life.”

“In the (recent) pastoral letter, “Open Wide our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love” a sentence says too many good and faithful Catholics remain unaware of the connection between institution-al racism in the continued erosion of the sanctity of life. How can people be good and faithful and remain unaware of the connection between institutional racism and the sanctity of life? How do we define what is good and faithful?” he asked, noting Catholic teaching teaches we be aware and love one another, to love God “and see God in everyone.”

While 25 witnesses will be selected to share their stories, the large number of letters resulting from the request for stories from the ad hoc committee in preparation for the Dayton event, will be available for perusal at the meeting. Attendees will be asked to submit letters after the meeting discussing its value and impact.

For more information, go to http://www.catholiccincinnati.org/event/usccb-ad-hoc-committee-on-racism-listening-session/

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