Demonstrators holding signs march during the 1963 March on Washington. As the 50th anniversaries of key civil rights events approach, some observe that there's still a long way to go toward eliminating racism in U.S. society. (CNS photo/Library of Congress)
Demonstrators holding signs march during the 1963 March on Washington. As the 50th anniversaries of key civil rights events approach, some observe that there's still a long way to go toward eliminating racism in U.S. society. (CNS photo/Library of Congress)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The issues that prompted the March on Washington 50 years ago have yet to be fully solved, said a 50th anniversary statement on the march issued by the U.S. bishops' Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church.

Crowds surround the Reflecting Pool during the 1963 March on Washington. As the 50th anniversaries of key civil rights events approach, some observe that there's still a long way to go toward eliminating racism in U.S. society. (CNS photo/Warren K. Leffler, Library of Congress)
Crowds surround the Reflecting Pool during the 1963 March on Washington. As the 50th anniversaries of key civil rights events approach, some observe that there's still a long way to go toward eliminating racism in U.S. society. (CNS photo/Warren K. Leffler, Library of Congress)

“The dream of (the Rev. Martin Luther) King (Jr., who spoke at the march) and all who marched and worked with him has not yet fully become a reality for many in our country,” said the statement, issued Aug. 13. “While we cannot deny the change that has taken place, there remains much to be accomplished.”

The statement said, “The U.S. Catholic bishops in their 1979 pastoral letter on racism 'Brothers and Sisters to Us' state, 'But neither can it be denied that too often what has happened has only been a covering over, not a fundamental change. Today the sense of urgency has yielded to an apparent acceptance of the status quo. The climate of crisis engendered by demonstrations, protests, and confrontation has given way to a mood of indifference, and other issues occupy our attention.'

“These words continue to ring true.”

The committee statement added, “The African-American Catholic bishops reminded us in their 1984 pastoral letter on evangelization 'What We Have Seen and Heard' that 'the cause of justice and social concerns are an essential part of evangelization.'

“We must never allow other issues to eclipse our belief in the fundamental human dignity of each and every person, and our responsibility to build up and to transform society in the manner in which the gospel message of Jesus Christ clearly makes evident to us.

Two events in Washington aim to capture the spirit of the 1963 march.

On Aug. 28, the anniversary date of the march, President Barack Obama is scheduled to address marchers in an event sponsored by the Center For the Study of Civil and Human Rights Laws, based in Rochester, N.Y. The march is preceded by a daylong civil rights conference at a Capitol Hill hotel. Keeping in mind the original march's quest “for jobs and freedom,” the march route will stop at the Labor Department and the Justice Department's headquarters before heading to the National Mall.

The weekend before, on Aug. 24, the New York-based National Action Network is sponsoring an anniversary march starting at the Lincoln Memorial, where Rev. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, before heading to the new King memorial on the Mall. Organizers say the issues they want to cover at the event include jobs, the economy, voting rights, workers' rights, “stand your ground” laws, gun violence, women's rights, immigration, gay rights, environmental justice and youth.

“We join our voices to those who call for and foster continued dialogue and non-violence among people of different races and cultures, and who work tirelessly for the transformative, constructive actions that are always the fruit of such authentic dialogue,” the bishops said.

“We rejoice in the advances that have occurred over the past 50 years, and sadly acknowledge that much today remains to be accomplished. However, we must always view the task that remains from the perspective of the continued call to hope and in the light of faith.”

Signing the statement were Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, committee chairman; Auxiliary Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of New Orleans, chairman of the bishops' Subcommittee on African-American Affairs; Bishop Gerald R. Barnes of San Bernardino, Calif., chairman of the Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs; Bishop Randolph R. Calvo of Reno, Nev., chairman of the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs; and Auxiliary Bishop Rutilio J. del Riego of San Bernardino, chairman of the Subcommittee on the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers.

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