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It is a pleasure to address you, my Brother Bishops, fellow Catholics and men and women of all races and ethnicities, during your commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the United States Bishops' Pastoral Letter, "Brothers and Sisters to Us."
When the Pastoral Letter was issued, the evils of racism were very much a matter of public discussion and debate, both in the United States and around the world. Much of the attention was, of course, focused on the apartheid regime in South, the demise of which has been justly celebrated. In your country, hard-fought battles over de-segregation and civil and voting rights were still fresh in the minds of many. The role of Christians in these struggles has been a particular witness of our teaching and belief in the God-given dignity shared by every human person.
Despite the advances made over the last quarter-century, many challenges remain. We can all be proud of the fact that the law no longer permits racial discrimination and that racism is nearly universally recognized as a simply ignorant prejudice, especially by the young. Yet in terms of social and economic opportunity and advancement, we cannot be satisfied. Problems of family breakdown, poverty, violence, drug abuse and other scourges disproportionately affect racial minorities in the United States and need to be more seriously addressed if your society is to fulfill its noble promise of liberty and justice for all.
In his visit to post-apartheid South Africa, Pope John Paul II recalled the words of the Prophet Isaiah: "Open up, open up, clear the way, remove all the obstacles from the way of may people" (Is, 57:14) and addressed the connection between faith in Jesus Christ and the advancement of justice and peace at every level of human relations (CF., Homily of Pope John Paul LL in Johannesburg, 17 September 1995, n.3). This task has been especially entrusted to the Pontifical Council of Justice and peace, which has taken on the theme of racism in the recently-published Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, and it is a task to be taken up by all members of the Church. It is my sincere whish that the Council's efforts will be of service to you.
May God, the foundation and source of our human dignity, bless all those work for justice and harmony among all our Brothers and Sisters.
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