'Pray for Peace' initiative throughout the U.S.

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The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops hosted the Pray for Peace in our Communities initiative on Friday throughout the U.S., which included the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston afternoon prayer at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in downtown Houston with a second session scheduled to take place on Friday at 7 p.m.

U.S. bishops were encouraged to participate in the initiative. The USCCB has also appointed a special task force that it says will support bishops in promoting peace and healing during this time of great strain on civil society.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, who serves as president of the USCCB, says the initiative is in response to incidents of violence and racial tension in communities across the United States, and as a direct response to racially-related shootings in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas. He also says that the Catholic Church needs to look at ways it can walk with and help these suffering communities.

"We have been blessed here within the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston not to have experienced the horror and tragedy of other major cities in our nation," said Deacon Leonard Lockett, the Archdiocesan Vicar for Catholics of African Descent. "However, they are real and serious structural issues of racism that affect people here in our community."

"The issue of race and the reality of racism can no longer be a topic discussed only in an academic setting or among like parties," added Deacon Lockett. "We can no longer wait. We have to begin an open and honest dialogue about race and racism in our nation, warts and all."

"We must also begin to live, teach and preach the Gospel of Social Justice," said Deacon Lockett. "It is no longer just enough to donate to a clothing or food drive; we have to be a people with a cause. It is imperative that our clergy truly understand the significance of their role to advance the dialogue through challenging and inspiring preaching and active advocacy."     

"By stepping forward to embrace the suffering, through unified, concrete action animated by the love of Christ, we hope to nurture peace and build bridges of communication and mutual aid in our own communities," added Archbishop Kurtz. 

The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston serves 1.6 million Catholics in 10 southeast Texas counties. It is the largest Roman Catholic diocese in Texas and the 5th largest in the United States.