Archbishop Gomez: Imitate Rev. King’s ‘example, prophetic witness’ in work for justice

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington is seen in this illustration photo. The life and legacy of the slain civil rights leader was commemorated this year on Jan. 17, a federal holiday. Beginning in 1970, a number of states and cities made his birthday, Jan. 15, a holiday. In 1983, Congress declared a federal holiday for Rev. King and set the annual observance for the third Monday of January.
CNS photo by Tyler Orsburn

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged all people of goodwill to commemorate the life and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., by remembering "not only the justice he pursued, but how he pursued it."

The civil rights leader "was driven by the biblical vision of righteousness and truth, a vision that he understood to be reflected in our nation's founding documents," Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez said in a Jan. 15 statement.

"He believed in what he called the 'American creed,' the belief expressed by our founders that all men and women are created equal and endowed by God with a sacred dignity and undeniable rights to life, liberty and equality," the prelate added.

Rev. King, who was assassinated in 1968 at age 39, would have turned 93 Jan. 15. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday, is observed on the third Monday of January each year.

This year, 54 years after his death, "America faces many challenges," Archbishop Gomez said. Among them, he said, are "this ongoing pandemic, issues of economic inequality and racial discrimination, violence in our communities, the struggle to welcome immigrants and refugees."

"In recent years, our nation has also become more polarized and our divisions angrier," he said.

In looking to the future, "let us continue to draw from Rev. King's wisdom, especially his commitment to the beatitudes of Jesus, and the principles of nonviolence and love for our enemies," Archbishop Gomez urged.

He referenced Rev. King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," an open letter written April 16, 1963, by the Baptist minister and activist while he was confined in a jail cell after he and other civil rights leaders were arrested for holding a nonviolent demonstration over the treatment of Blacks in Birmingham, Alabama.

A court had ordered that Rev. King could not hold protests there. He spent eight days in jail before being released on bail.