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Interfaith Prayer Service for Healing and Unity in Baltimore

Basilica of the Assumption

Welcome to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the first Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States.

On behalf of my colleagues in ministry, it is my pleasure to welcome you to this interfaith prayer service for unity and peace in our beloved City of Baltimore.

In a very special way I’d like to acknowledge the presence of the many members of the clergy, including the priests, deacons and consecrated religious of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, as well as the many civic and community leaders who are with us tonight.

Each of you generously serves the people of Baltimore, albeit in different ways, and it is a rare opportunity for us all to be together, united by the common purpose of praying for the welfare of Baltimore and its citizens.

One morning a year ago this week, I walked a few blocks along a street in Sandtown-Winchester. I stood alongside a burned out car, left in the middle of a street that should have been full of activity but instead was completely abandoned. It was like an eerie scene from a movie and revealed the surreal drama that had unfolded just hours earlier, unlike any that had been seen in our city since the 1960s.

A few days later, I returned to St. Peter Claver Catholic Church just a few blocks from where that car was left as a symbol of the anger and desperation felt by many in our city. I was at St. Peter for Mass that first Sunday after a week of turmoil and unrest. It was a hopeful and joyful service, attended by many who knew that hope was indeed possible for a neighborhood and a city for which hope seemed so distant just a few days earlier.

And it is this same hope that brings us together tonight. A hope that can only be found through faith, faith in God, faith in the power of prayer, faith in the inherent goodness and decency of man.

Shortly after last year’s unrest, leaders of many faith communities instinctively began reaching out to each other to ask how we can work together to more effectively serve the people of Baltimore. Each of us is committed to the city and has long had initiatives and programs in place—but we all knew that together we could accomplish far more and felt our unity could inspire others to realize the same.

Last month, a group of us traveled to Rome to pray together, to spend time discussing the City and how we can strengthen our bonds, and we received a blessing for our work and our unity from Pope Francis. And the Pope extended his own prayers and wishes for peace in our city, which I am pleased to convey on his behalf this night.

One of the fruits of our discussions is tonight’s prayer service, which we decided to call “From Hope to Wholeness.”

While these services—which are organized by--and bring together --people of all faiths—are rare, they are not unprecedented. Neither is collaboration among faith and civic leaders in our City rare. While it may feel, at times, like we are breaking new ground we can never forget that our work together for peace was preceded by those who came before us.

I think about Giants in the Civil Rights Movement like Perrin Mitchell and Clarence Mitchell Jr., Lillie Mae Carroll-Jenkins, Thurgood Marshall, Sidney Hollander, Sr. and Anita Williams.

We remember Lawrence Cardinal Shehan testifying in favor of Open Housing before the Baltimore City Council in 1966, in the face of threats to his life…and the role of Sharp Street United Methodist Church which emerged as an important center in the Baltimore Civil Rights Movement.

It is on their shoulders that we stand together tonight, with eyes to God and hands in each other’s, praying together that our shared hope will lead a broken city to wholeness.

For it is only together that we can continue the healing in our city and achieve our ultimate goal: ensuring that the God-given dignity of each of our sisters and brothers in Baltimore is recognized, respected, and nurtured.

Signs of efforts to make this goal a reality are present all over our city. Expanded services by Catholic Charities and by our many partners in faith, as well as initiatives sponsored by the City and by other leaders in our community, offer great hope that long-awaited and systemic change has begun—change that may indeed lead us from hope to wholeness.

I thank you once again for your presence. I hope you will know that you are always welcome in our Church and that you’ll return often.