During his homily at the annual service commemorating the life of Martin Luther King on Saturday, Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Wilton Gregory called on Americans to remember the contributions of African Americans to US history.
“African American heroes and heroines have an important lesson to offer all Americans because they exhibit a determination and a moral integrity that enriches our nation and perfects the human spirit,” he said.
“These men and women, scientists, artists, sports persons, scholars, and adventurers were invited to pursue greatness in the face of tremendous obstacles. They bore the blunt of rejection because of their race and heritage, yet they did not succumb to the pressures of a hostile society.”
Their pursuit of greatness in the face of those who thought them “not worthy of human respect or dignity” has much to teach us, he said.
“There is no easy recipe. There is only courage and hope. May each of us find enough of these virtues to become the people that the Lord invites us to become the Church and for our world. Dr. King lived the Beatitudes because he knew that was the recipe to greatness.”
Cardinal Gregory, the Archbishop of Atlanta for fourteen years and prior to that the President of the United States Conference of Bishops for four, made history last year when Pope Francis made him the first black cardinal from the United States on 28th November last year.
In light of the storming of the Capitol building in Washington, Gregory has spoken out frequently in recent weeks about the divisions in the US. He told a group of school students last week that: ‘We need the Lord to cast out demon of division in our nation’.
Speaking out against the storming of the Capitol building in Washington, he said: ‘the United States Capitol is sacred ground and a place where people over the past centuries have rightly demonstrated, representing a wide variety of opinions. We Americans should honour the place where our nation’s laws and policies are debated and decided. We should feel violated when the legacy of freedom enshrined in that building is disrespected and desecrated.”
Image credit: Dr Martin Luther King arriving at Heathrow Airport in 1961 (PA)