Bells tolled around the country this past Wednesday, April 4, paying homage to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy of fighting racial inequality with non-violent resistance.
Catholic churches and cathedrals throughout the country joined in the commemoration, ringing cathedral and church bells 39 times to represent the number of years that Dr. King was alive. The bells rang out at 4:05pm, the exact time that Dr. King was assassinated 50 years ago while speaking to a crowd in Memphis, TN.
In an address to Congress in 2015, Pope Francis praised Dr. King’s life’s work and encouraged the continuation of his legacy, reminding that “Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best.” (Find the whole address here.)
Bishops from throughout the state and country offered their own words to recall the legacy of Dr. King on the anniversary of his death.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement earlier in the week reflecting that the tolling of the bells, “is also an opportunity for us to pause and reflect individually on what we are doing to build the culture of love, respect and peace to which the Gospel calls us and to also ask ourselves how we seek to help our brothers and sisters still suffering under the weight of racism.”
In his own statement, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone wrote, “We recognize that too much of our present reality is not so different from that of 1968.”
“It is from Christ’s love, which inspired Dr. King, that we can draw strength, guidance and inspiration in these troubled times. But we have to do something about that, not let it remain an inspiring thought,” Archbishop Cordileone said.
In a press release on the event, the Most Rev. Jaime Soto, Bishop of Sacramento, wrote, “Dr. King’s message upholding the God-given dignity of all people, regardless of race or religion, is still urgent today as it was 50 years ago when he was the victim of brutal violence.”
“He believed in the persuasive power of non-violent, respectful action in response to the intimidating hostility against him and his followers. He never lost sight of the dream, nor should we,” Rev. Soto said.