After the May 25 killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the widespread protest and unrest that have followed, Catholic leaders throughout the nation, including Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., here in the Diocese of Trenton, have issued clear condemnation of the systemic racism that has sometimes led to injustice at the hands of law enforcement against members of the black community. 

In many cases, these statements have echoed the teaching that was expressed in the 2018 document of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, A Pastoral Letter Against Racism." The U.S. bishops overwhelmingly approved the pastoral letter against racism during their fall general meeting in November of that year.

Spurred by a number of high-profile cases where unarmed black men were shot and killed by police, the document has been a foundation for the statements that are being made now in support of the message that “black lives matter.”

At the time of the document’s passing, USCCB leaders involved in drafting and promoting it, explained, “The entire body of bishops felt the need to address the topic of racism, once again, after witnessing the deterioration of the public discourse, and episodes of violence and animosity with racial and xenophobic overtones, that have re-emerged in American society in the last few years.

“Pastoral letters from the full body of bishops are rare, few and far between. But at key moments in history, the bishops have come together for important pronouncements, paying attention to a particular issue and with the intention of offering a Christian response, full of hope, to the problems of our time. This is such a time.”

"Despite many promising strides made in our country, racism still infects our nation," the pastoral letter says. "Racist acts are sinful because they violate justice. They reveal a failure to acknowledge the human dignity of the persons offended, to recognize them as the neighbors Christ calls us to love."

Two years later, the letter’s relevance has grown stronger as the anguish borne from racial injustice in the United States takes on more urgency. Click HERE to read the full pastoral letter.