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US Bishops Urge Americans to Follow Martin Luther King’s Prophetic Witness

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As Americans honor the memory of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., the Bishops of the United States call on all people of good will to continue to be inspired by his example and to continue his work for equality. and justice in American society.

By Lisa Zengarini

The United States celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which since 1983 has been observed on the third Monday in January to commemorate the life and legacy of the civil rights leader.

In a statement for the celebration, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, called on all people of good will to follow his prophetic witness of non- violence and brotherhood.

He said the prominent activist should be remembered not just for the justice he pursued, but “how he pursued it”.

“Tour. King was guided by the biblical vision of justice and truth, a vision which he said was reflected in our nation’s founding documents,” the Archbishop wrote in his statement released January 15.

“He believed in what he called the ‘American Creed’, the belief expressed by our founders that all men and women are created equal and endowed by God with sacred dignity and undeniable rights to life, freedom and equality,” he added.

America faces many challenges today

Dr. King was murdered on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, presumably by lone gunman James Earl Ray.

Bishop Gomez noted that more than 54 years after his death, “America faces many challenges,” including the ongoing pandemic, issues of economic inequality and racial discrimination, violence in communities, and the struggle to accommodate immigrants and refugees.

He further remarked that in recent years the nation “has also become more polarized and our divisions more angry.”

Drawing on the wisdom of Reverend King

Looking to the future, the President of the American Bishops therefore urged Americans to “continue to draw on the wisdom of Reverend King, especially his commitment to the beatitudes of Jesus, and the principles of nonviolence and love for our enemies”.

Fraternity and non-violence

He also recalled the ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’, which the Baptist minister and Nobel laureate wrote on April 16, 1963, while he was detained for organizing a non-violent protest in the city against the treatment black Americans.

In the letter, “Rev. King reminds us that we are brothers and sisters, part of a wonderful web of caring relationships, each of us depending on the others as others depend on us,” Bishop Gomez said. Let us move forward in this same spirit of brotherhood and solidarity, and continue his work for equality and justice.”

Joe Biden’s tribute to Reverend King

On January 11, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris paid their respects to Martin Luther King Jr., visiting the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta – where he pastored until his death – and laying a wreath in the crypt where Reverend King and his wife, Coretta, are buried.

Dr. Bernice King and Martin Luther King III – two of his children – were present at the ceremony.