USCCB Vice President Implores Nonviolence, Action Against Injustice In Event Honoring King’s ‘Letter From Birmingham Jail’

April 16, 2013 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON—The Rev.Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter From Birmingham Jail" deserves a response that"asks forgiveness for past sins," offers thanks for "clear gains" over the last50 years and resolves to do more, said the vice president of the U.S. Conferenceof Catholic Bishops (USCCB) at an event in Birmingham, Alabama, April 14,honoring the 50th anniversary of King's letter.

"Whileviolence surrounded Dr. King's life, he proclaimed in word and deed thedirection of his Savior, Jesus Christ – namely, that injustice must not beignored, but neither can violence be addressed and eliminated by greater actsof violence," said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, whorepresented USCCB at the April 14-15 symposium sponsored by Christian ChurchesTogether (CCT). Archbishop Kurtz's remarks followed keynote addresses by Rev.Jim Wallis of Sojourners and U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia.

On April 15, dozens of Christianleaders signed an official response to King's letter and presented it to Rev.Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr. They also participatedin an ecumenical prayer walk through historic Kelly Ingram Park, a centrallocation for demonstrations during the Civil Rights Movement. Rev. King calledon those gathered to "make sure their words move their shoes." Dorothy Cotton,education coordinator of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC),emphasized the need to resume the struggle for justice in today's multiculturalcontext.

Bishop Denis Madden, auxiliary bishopof Baltimore and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical andInterreligious Affairs, Bishop Shelton Fabre, auxiliary bishop of New Orleansand chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on African Affairs, and other staffmembers represented USCCB at the event.

"Of course, sorrow for the past and gratitudefor the present will be empty words unless matched by a clear resolve tocontinue the work at hand. Fifty years ago, Rev. King Jr. was cautioned not todo anything unwise or untimely. Indeed, his actions and our actions this daynot only reflect wisdom, both natural and supernatural, but also action whosetime has long since come," Archbishop Kurtz said. Archbishop Kurtz also citedthe U.S. bishops' 1979 pastoral letter on racism.

The full text of Archbishop Kurtz'sremarks and additional information on the event is available online:


Keywords: Civil Rights, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., BerniceKing, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, USCCB vice president, U.S. bishops, U.S.Conference of Catholic Bishops, racism, Letter From Birmingham Jail, 50thanniversary, Christian Churches Together, CCT, Bishop Denis Madden, BishopShelton Fabre, Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Activities,nonviolence, injustice

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