Cdl. Cupich: Church will do everything it can ‘to end scourge of violence’

Karen Callaway | Catholic New World
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CHICAGO — Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich April 4 announced an initiative to increase the work of current anti-violence programs in parishes and schools and those run by Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, Catholic Charities and Kolbe House, the archdiocese's jail ministry.

The Archdiocese of Chicago also will seek out partnerships to increase programs that will help break the cycle of violence.

With a $250,000 personal donation, Cardinal Cupich said the archdiocese will create the Instruments of Peace Venture Philanthropy Fund that will provide funds for both new and existing neighborhood-based anti-violence programs. The money comes from donations he's received to aid his personal charitable efforts.

In 2018, the archdiocese also will hold the first U.S. meeting of Scholas Occurrentes, a program active in 100 countries that brings young people together to meet and problem-solve. The gathering will involve young people from Cook and Lake counties.

The announcements, which were on the 49th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., came ina news conference at the Peace Corner Youth Center, which serves young people in Chicago's violence-prone Austin neighborhood. As of April 5,773 people were shot in Chicago in 2017 and there were 151 homicides, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Cardinal Cupich also invited people to join him on a Walk for Peace through the city's Englewood neighborhood on Good Friday, April 14. Like Austin, Englewood is a neighborhood that sees frequent shootings and crime. During the walk, participants will take part in the Stations of the Cross and pause along the way to remember those who died by violence. Along the route, participants will read the names of those killed in Chicago since January.

The cardinal shared these plans with Pope Francis when he met him in Rome recently. Pope Francis was moved by the news and drafted a letter to the people of Chicago, which the cardinal read at the news conference.

"I assure you of my support for the commitment you and many other local leaders are making to promote nonviolence as a way of life and a path to people in Chicago," the pope stated. "As I make my own Way of the Cross in Rome that day, I will accompany you in prayer, as well as all those who walk with you and who have suffered violence in the city."

Cardinal Cupich's announcement of new initiatives follows a yearlong process he initiated to learn about the scope of anti-violence programs already going on in the archdiocese.

While no program will completely eradicate violence from the city, the cardinal said, "just because we can't do everything doesn't mean we shouldn't do something. It's going to take one person at a time."

During his process of learning about the efforts in the archdiocese, Cardinal Cupich said he heard of many ways parishes and groups want to respond but lack the funding to do more. The Instruments of Peace Venture Philanthropy Fund is for them.

He stressed the need for partnerships in these efforts.

"I can't do it alone. I need the help of others," Cardinal Cupich said.

Father Scott Donahue, executive director of Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, also addressed reporters at the news conference and announced another initiative. For 130 years, Mercy Home has cared for abused and neglected children.

Mercy Home uses the Becoming A Man and Working on Womanhood programs run by Chicago's Youth Guidance that help at-risk youth overcome obstacles and succeed in school and life. Donahue announced that the archdiocese will work with Youth Guidance to develop similar parish-based programs for youth.

"The only way to break this cycle of violence is by reaching out and saving one life at a time," Father Donahue said. Youth) "cannot reject violence if that is the only thing they know." 

Bp. Braxton recalls King's work for 'integral human development'

By Cindy Wooden | Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The work of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to promote the "integral human development" of all people is a work that must continue today in the world and in the Catholic Church, Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Ill., told participants at a Vatican conference.

Bishop Braxton moderated a panel discussion April 4 at the conference marking the 50th anniversary of Blessed Paul VI's encyclical on development, "Populorum Progressio."

Closing the afternoon panel, the bishop reminded participants that it was the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. King, "who was only 39 years old when he was cruelly slain in the midst of trying to bring about a more integral human development for all people in the United States, especially people of color."

"The racial divide in the United States and, sadly, in the Catholic Church in the United States is not something of the past. It is very much something of the present," the bishop said.

The bishop described Rev. King as "the conscience of the United States, the nonviolent prophet challenging the sin and the heresy of racism and apartheid-like segregation and prejudice in the United States."

Many people in Europe, he said, seem to think the election of Barack Obama to two terms as U.S. president signaled "an end to the racial divide in the United States. However, the racial divide has not been bridged fully; we do not live in a post-racial society in the United States or in the Catholic Church."

Integral human development and progress in ensuring all people enjoy the benefits of well-being are still needed for members of minority communities in the United States, just as in most countries around the globe, he said.

All Catholics everywhere, he said, need to follow "these simple imperatives: listen, learn, think, pray and act."

"Christ needs us all," Bishop Braxton said. "He needs our eyes to continue to see. He needs our ears to continue to hear. He needs our mouths to continue to speak. He needs our hands to continue to work. He needs our feet to continue to walk. He needs our bodies to continue to serve. And He needs our hearts to continue to love." 

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