LEICESTER, United Kingdom – A leading Catholic official in Britain’s capital says the church has a “crucial role to play” in speaking out against racism and promoting racial inclusion in the nation’s communities.
“Racism is a sin and has no place in our world. As followers of Christ, it is our duty to welcome all people, regardless of race or background, into our Church and show them there is a place for them,” said Canon Victor Darlington, the chair of the Commission for Promoting Racial and Cultural Inclusion of the Archdiocese of Southwark, which governs the London boroughs south of the River Thames.
Darlington was speaking at St. Margaret of Scotland in Carshalton Beeches, which the archdiocese says “leads the way” on promoting racial and cultural inclusion.
Father Anthony Uche, originally from Nigeria, is the pastor of the parish, has established a Racial and Cultural Inclusion group in the community, saying, “the face of the Church must be seen in all we do.”
The parish has added images and statues of saints from different cultural and racial backgrounds, including several of the Virgin Mary from different parts of the world.
The priest says the impact has been extraordinary, with a previously predominantly white parish becoming more diverse.
“You know how it can feel busy in London, but we always feel at home and okay here. We are welcome to Mass, we are welcome to the church and the parish,” said a parishioner named Anthony.
His wife, Joy, noted they have six children, “which is an apostolate in itself.”
“So the impact of the parish on each of them makes a huge difference in the community and we hope that can impact their friends,” she said.
The Archdiocese of Southwark is the first Catholic diocese in England and Wales to establish a Commission for Promoting Racial and Cultural Inclusion, and it says St. Margaret’s of Scotland is an extraordinary success.
A member of the Racial and Cultural Diversity group at the parish said racial equality means fairness to everybody regardless of what race they’re from.
“When you think of what we’re meant to be as Christians, we’re called to love everybody, regardless of race,” she said.
“When Jesus came down, that was His whole message. It wasn’t about one particular set of people, it was everyone. If we want to be true followers of Christ, you have to realise every single person is important,” she added.
Paul Cavadino, co-chair of the Racial and Cultural Inclusion group, said promoting racial and cultural diversity “does not happen by accident.”
“It needs a group which looks systemically at all the worship, the activities, the different ministries in the parish and making sure we’re promoting racial and cultural diversity across everything we do,” he explained.
“God loves everyone equally, from every culture and background around the world. If we’re not reflecting that in our activities and in our worship, then we are failing,” Cavadino said.
Darlington said that’s why the work of St. Margaret’s Parish is so important, “because when people go to a parish, they should not only see white images but also people who look like them.”
“Jesus loves us all and we in turn must love and welcome all,” the priest said.
St. Margaret’s has been recognized by the Archdiocese of Southwark as the first “Saint of Southwark” for their work in promoting racial and cultural inclusion.
The archdiocese said the parish “is a perfect example of the extraordinary difference parishes can make to their local community.”