The ad hoc committee was established in August 2017 in the wake of increasing racial tensions and white nationalist activism. Its work has included a press conference at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., an award-winning children’s book on healing and reconciliation, and the creation of resources for the Sept. 9 Feast Day of St. Peter Claver as an annual day of prayer for peace within communities.
The committee also promotes education, resources, communications strategies, and care for victims of racism. It is funded by the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and the Black and Indian Missions Office.
The bishops’ conference released a pastoral letter dedicated to fighting racism in 2018, entitled, “Open wide our hearts: the enduring call to love.”
The committee has been led since May 2018 by Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, La. It was previously led by Bishop George Murry, S.J. of Youngstown, Ohio, who resigned in 2018 due a recurrence of leukemia.
The U.S. bishops also voted Monday to approve the 2021-2024 USCCB Strategic Plan, which guides the allocation of resources and personnel at the conference.
The plan was approved 193-3, with 2 abstentions.
The strategic plan was developed over two years with regional input on priorities, explained Archbishop Timothy Broglio, the conference secretary.
The theme for the strategic plan is “Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ, Source of Our Healing and Hope.”
Broglio called it an “inspirational theme which will elevate the faithful by reminding them of the power of the very source and summit of our faith, the body and blood of Christ,” while acknowledging the challenges facing the Church, including the coronavirus pandemic and the abuse crisis.
In addition, the bishops voted in favor of the 2021 proposed budget by a vote of 193-1, with 4 abstentions.
Bishop Gregory Parkes of St. Petersburg, treasurer of the conference, said the proposal reflects an attempt to curtail expenses, due to economic uncertainty caused by the ongoing pandemic.
The conference has also worked to reduce spending in 2020, he said, and there is no proposed increase in the diocesan assessment next year.
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Although there has been a significant market recovery since the early days of the pandemic, Parkes said, many parishes are closed, people are out of work, and dioceses are in bankruptcy.