BROTHER F. EDWARD COUGHLIN, OFM, president of Siena College in Loudonville, said in response to the tragic events of Aug. 11-12 in Charlottesville, Va.: "As we continue to pray for the victims and their families, let's also remember those who live in fear, criminally and unconscionably targeted because of their race, religion, sexual orientation or political beliefs. I ask all of us to renew and redouble our efforts to be messengers of reconciliation, mercy and compassion whenever we encounter hatred, bias or the inclination to violence. In the spirit of [St.] Francis, I invite all of us to dedicate some effort each day to being a peacemaker"....
REV. DAVID MICKIEWICZ, pastor of St. Mary's parish in Oneonta, gave a powerful homily on the events in Charlottesville. He said in part: "At the peace rally in Charlottesville on Wednesday night, a person said that this was a new beginning. They were wrong. There is no new beginning. There is only constant vigilance. The dragon will always be laying low and waiting for another opportunity.
"How do we confront the dragon without and within us? Reflect on our own prejudices....Support groups such as The Southern Poverty Law Center, an American non-profit which monitors extremist groups and seeks to teach and promote tolerance....Parents, do not shield your children from what is going on. Because of social media, they are probably more aware of what is going on than we realize. Watch the news together and discuss what is happening. Listen to their experiences and feelings....Avoid shouting matches. Shouting never changes people's attitudes and ideas. Walk away. Fear is only broken down by experience of the other....Learn the lessons of non-violent activism from Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi. It is the lesson of Jesus before Pilate. The dragon of hate first devours the life and soul of the person who hates"....
DEACON WALTER AYRES, director of the diocesan Commission on Peace and Justice, offered a reflection on Charlottesville, as well: "We Catholics were once the target of the Ku Klux Klan and others who considered us a threat to the nation. When the KKK was resurrected in 1915 at Stone Mountain in Georgia, its targets were foreigners, Jews and, above all, Roman Catholics. How is it that descendants of people once attacked and ridiculed by the Klan come to join that very organization and attack others, often with the same false claims that were leveled against our ancestors?
"As our Catholic ancestors worked to become part of the social fabric of this nation, they suppressed the importance of recalling our own history. How many Catholics today know that, in colonial times, laws forbade Catholics from voting, or becoming lawyers and teachers?
"We have been the victims of the same hate groups that attack others today. Our allegiance should be with the victims of prejudice, not with its purveyors. We also must be aware of Church teaching on the need to confront racism in our day.
"In 1979, the American bishops issued a pastoral letter on racism, 'Brothers and Sisters to Us.' They wrote: 'Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father. Racism...mocks the words of Jesus: "Treat others the way you would have them treat you."
"Almost 40 years after this pastoral letter was issued, its promise is yet to be fulfilled. Perhaps the incidents in Charlottesville will motivate us to address the issue of racism in an honest and urgent manner."