The ongoing legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is that every human life is sacred and must be protected from injustice, said leading U.S. bishops on Jan. 19.

At a Jan. 17 Mass honoring the legacy of Dr. King, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., said that the civil rights leader "quietly, forcefully, without violence and always faithful to the Gospel, simply reminded this society, this culture, this nation, that we are all one in the Spirit, we are all sisters and brothers because we are all children of the same God.

"If one is treated unjustly, we are all affected," the cardinal added.

His comments came during the homily of a Mass at Holy Comforter/St. Cyprian Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. The parish is a combination of the historically African-American St. Cyprian parish and nearby Holy Comforter parish. The two merged in 1966.

The theme of the Mass was King's quote that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Every person has a duty to fight injustice, Cardinal Wuerl insisted, which can take many forms including the present evils of racism, abortion, and religious persecution.

"In a democracy, every citizen must accept some responsibility for the direction of the country. Especially as people of faith, we need to bring our moral values and vision to the market place," he said.

"If we look at families and neighborhoods across our land, if we look at our schools and workplaces, if we look at our courtrooms and prisons, if we look at our streets and see people again marching with signs saying 'black lives matter,' then we see that, while we have made great progress, we still have a ways to go yet," he said.

The cardinal also pointed to the upcoming 2015 March for Life as an example of citizens fighting the injustice of abortion, and called attention to religious persecution both at home and abroad.

"If we look across our nation and see people of faith being pressured to act against their religion or look to the Middle East and Nigeria and elsewhere in the world and see people maimed, kidnapped and killed by groups like ISIS and Boko Haram, then we see that we as a people have not yet come to the Promised Land. There is still a distance to travel," he said.

The president of the U.S. Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, also called for the protection of every human being in his message for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

"Every human life has profound dignity, rooted in our creation in the image of God. We are one family. Our communities will only reflect this dignity if we first turn to prayer to guide our actions toward ending years of isolation, disregard and conflict between neighbors," he stated.

Both the cardinal and archbishop stressed that effective action can only be taken with prayer.

"That which seems impossible can only be brought about through God and his powerful intervention in our hearts," Archbishop Kurtz stated.

"At the heart of our participation is our faith in Christ, his Gospel, his call to human solidarity and above all his love," stressed Cardinal Wuerl.