NEW YORK – On Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the president of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference is calling on Catholics to pause and reflect on King’s legacy “and his rallying cry in the pursuit of justice and peace.”
“As Rev. King taught us, we must confront the evils of racism and prejudice with the love of Christ: ‘Deeply etched in the fiber of our religious tradition is the conviction that men are made in the image of God… the heirs of a legacy of dignity and worth…,’” Archbishop Timothy Broglio said in a statement.
“This is a call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men,” Broglio said.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day was instituted as a federal holiday to honor the life and legacy of King, a relentless advocate for equality, leader of the civil rights movement, and a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. King was assassinated in 1968 at the age of 39.
The Day after King was killed – shot outside of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee – Pope Paul VI said during his Angelus address that King was a “Christian prophet for racial integration.”
MLK Day is held annually on the third Sunday in January, in honor of King’s birthday on Jan. 15.
Broglio, who leads the Archdiocese for the Military Services, said Catholics “can and must” work for justice in peace, “remembering Rev. King’s call to action: ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
The archbishop called King a champion of civil rights, referencing that King used the word of God to “change hearts and minds” – a phrase often used by American bishops.
“Given issues of migration, antisemitism and racial and religious discrimination touching our communities, we are reminded that the work of bringing people together in mutual recognition and cooperation is never really done,” Broglio said. “There remain forces in the human condition that would tear asunder what has been accomplished.”
Broglio added that like King, the Church must remain vigilant in evangelization efforts, and continued civic progress within human relations.
“These things help shape communities that manifest the affirmative outcomes arising from our varied races, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds,” Broglio said. “The Catholic Church is committed to this endeavor and willingly clasps hands and hearts with all others of like mind, faith, and hope.”
Follow John Lavenburg on X: @johnlavenburg