After 1967: Detroit Catholics worked to overcome sins of racism

(NCR Online) A major Hollywood film, a play, several documentaries, three museum exhibits and a host of public forums mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 civil disorder in Detroit this summer. The five days of violence, looting and arson left 43 people dead, 342 injured and large swaths of one of America’s greatest cities in smoldering ruins.

It all began on a Sunday morning, and Catholics across Detroit marked the day on another Sunday a half century later. Before Mass on July 23, 2017, parishioners of Christ the King Catholic Church, for example, planted 44 crosses on the church lawn to commemorate those who had died 50 years before. (The official number is 43 dead, but the parish found an additional name on lists of victims.)

In the wake of the devastation of 1967, Detroit Archbishop John Dearden directed all archdiocesan priests to preach on the Sunday following the violence about the need to rebuild the city “in a spirit of Christ-like love and concern.” Dearden continued pressing the need for the church in the U.S. “to become the moral voice of the whole community” on civil rights issues.

On Palm Sunday 1968, just days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Dearden announced the diversion of $1 million from the annual Archdiocesan Development Fund (ADF) away from Catholic programs to other anti-poverty programs that were nonreligious. [More]


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