During its National General Assembly this week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (UCSSB) voted to approve a Pastoral Letter addressing the evil of racism and advance the sainthood cause of Sister Thea Bowman, a trailblazing African-American sister in the U.S.
“Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, A Pastoral Letter Against Racism," was approved by the full body of bishops with a two-thirds majority vote of 241 to 3 with 1 abstention.
“The entire body of bishops felt the need to address the topic of racism, once again, after witnessing the deterioration of the public discourse, and episodes of violence and animosity with racial and xenophobic overtones, that have re-emerged in American society in the last few years,” said a statement from the USCCB Cultural Diversity in the Church Committee.
“Pastoral letters from the full body of bishops are rare, few and far between. But at key moments in history, the bishops have come together for important pronouncements, paying attention to a particular issue and with the intention of offering a Christian response, full of hope, to the problems of our time. This is such a time,” the statement said.
The Bishops also voted to further the cause of sainthood for Sr. Thea Bowman. The granddaughter of slaves, Sr. Bowman was the only African-American member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and was the first black sister to address the USCCB. She fought to transcend racism and left a lasting mark on U.S. Catholic life in the late 20th century.
The vote opens the way for a diocesan commission to determine whether Sr. Bowman lived a life of "extraordinary and heroic virtue."