St George's Cathedral celebrated Racial Justice Sunday, welcoming diverse communities from across the Archdiocese.
St George's Cathedral was packed for Racial Justice Sunday, as families and friends came together to celebrate the Archdiocese of Southwark's vibrant and diverse communities.
As well as a celebration of the diverse communities in our Archdiocese, it was also an occasion of solidarity with those who have suffered racism. Archbishop John Wilson used his homily to call out racism and make it clear racism is wrong and will not be tolerated in the Church or in our society.
We want to make it absolutely clear that in our Church, in our society, in our nation, and in our world, there is no place for racism. Never, ever, no matter what.
Archbishop John reminded us that we will "never meet anyone that God does not already love", urging us all to see the face of Christ in every person we meet. In a powerful homily, he said:
We are, and must be, prophets of justice who refuse to remain static or silent in the face of racism and discrimination. We are, and must be, prophets of hope who dream of, and work to achieve, the celebration of our beautiful shared identity as one family of humankind united in love.
The Archdiocese of Southwark's Commission for Promoting Racial and Cultural Inclusion, led by Canon Victor Darlington, is actively encouraging the recognition of the gifts of everyone in our communities. This work continues within our parishes and schools.
Archbishop John's homily can be read in full below and you can watch the beautiful service back on the Archdiocesan YouTube channel.
Photo credit: © Mazur/cbcew.org.uk. Further photos available here.
Archbishop John Wilson's homily, Racial Justice Sunday 28 January 2024
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ
What a joy it is to see our Cathedral so full and so representative of the different communities within our Archdiocese. Thank you for your presence here as a snapshot of our Church across South London and Kent on this Racial Justice Sunday.
As I was thinking about our celebration of Holy Mass today something struck me in a new way, as if for the first time. It dawned on me that no one has ever belittled me because of the colour of my skin. No one has ever made fun of me because of the way I speak, or the food I eat, or the style of my hair – not that I’ve got much hair left anymore. But I know people who are belittled, and who and made fun of, through racist comments and attitudes about these kinds of things and more besides.
Sometimes racism is dressed up as humour. At other times, it’s just downright disrespectful. In either and any sense, racism is unacceptable. Some people who face racist comments and attitudes are just children. Sometimes they are elderly, or migrants, or refugees. But here’s the truth: it doesn’t matter what age people are, or what their status is. Racism is wrong. No ifs and no buts.
Recent research from the mental health charity Mind indicates that 1 in 3 people from ethnic minority communities experience stigma and/or discrimination while receiving support. (Mind, Race and Mental Health, 2023) Sadly, there is even racism in our Catholic Churches and schools, the very places where we come together as one body, as one family in Christ.
We want to make it absolutely clear that in our Church, in our society, in our nation, and in our world, there is no place for racism. Never, ever, no matter what. Sixty years ago, the Second Vatican Council reaffirmed the equality of all people. This flows from our dignity as persons with fundamental human rights. (cf. CCC 1935) Vatican II stated clearly that: ‘Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, colour, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.’ (CCC 1935; GS 40) There is no place for racism. Please say it with me: there is no place for racism. And there never should be.
Dear friends, we heard two powerful messages in the Scriptures today, ancient messages which speak to us here and now. In the Book of Deuteronomy, God proclaims through his servant Moses: ‘I will raise up a prophet and I will put my words into his mouth.’ Of course, there were many prophets who followed after Moses, all pointing towards Christ. The prophet calls people to right relationship with God and with each other. The prophet witnesses to God’s justice. The prophet doesn’t so much predict the future, as tell God’s truth in the present.
All the prophets up to St John the Baptist prepared the way for the true and final prophet, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is Jesus who speaks and teaches the truth in a new way, in a manner that has ‘authority behind it,’ divine authority unlike any other.
I want to say to each of, my sisters and brothers who are baptised in Christ, that you too are called to be prophets. You too are called to speak God’s truth with authority. In the words of St Oscar Romero: ‘each one of you [has] to be a microphone of God; each one of you [has] to be a messenger and a prophet.’ He continues: ‘Wherever there are baptised persons, there also is [the] church, and there also are prophets. In those places something must be said in the name of the truth which discloses the lies of the earth.’ And so, says St Oscar Romero: ‘Let us not be cowards. Let us not hide the talent God gave us on the day of our baptism. Let us truly take up the beautiful responsibility of being a prophetic people!’ (Homily, 8 July 1979)
Dear friends, we must speak prophetically the truth that every person is a beloved son or daughter of our Heavenly Father. We must speak prophetically the truth that there is no place for racism. We must speak prophetically the truth that every person, irrespective of their place of origin, or their language, or the colour of their skin, has an innate dignity which must be respected. This divine truth is self-evident through human reason. It’s enshrined at the heart of our faith: ‘Love one another,’ said the Lord Jesus, ‘as I have loved you.’ There are no exceptions. There are no get out clauses. There are no exclusions. We are, each of us, called to love one another, called to love our neighbour. And our neighbour is the very next person we meet.
It is an immeasurable blessing that our Archdiocese is so richly international and ethnically abundant and diverse. People from across our planet have made their home here. We are a genuinely Catholic Church, a magnificent, all-embracing kaleidoscope of God’s creation. Each and every person is a gift from God; and each and every person has gifts to offer to God and others. No one is superfluous or incidental. Everyone is necessary, everyone is important, everyone is blessed.
I am proud that our Archdiocese is working to combat racism. Our Commission for Promoting Racial and Cultural Inclusion is actively encouraging the recognition of the gifts of everyone in our communities. We are promoting saints from diverse cultures, including St Josephine Bakhita from Sudan whose statue is to be erected here in our Cathedral. We are collaborating to produce bible and sacramental celebratory resources that reflect the diversity of our communities. We are enabling training and formation in parishes and schools, and working with agencies and organisations outside our Archdiocese to address racism. I am so grateful to Canon Victor and the members of the Commission for their passion and commitment to make our Archdiocese a welcoming place for everyone.
Dear friends, we will never meet anyone that God does not already love. When we gather for the Eucharist, we see in each other the face of Christ who draws us to himself and into unity with one another. We are, and must be, prophets of the truth that there is a place for everyone in our world and in our Church. We are, and must be, prophets of justice who refuse to remain static or silent in the face of racism and discrimination. We are, and must be, prophets of hope who dream of, and work to achieve, the celebration of our beautiful shared identity as one family of humankind united in love.
‘I will raise up a prophet and I will put my words into his mouth.’ That prophet, my brothers and sisters, is you and me. Amen Lord, Amen.