It’s no secret that the Catholic Church has a diversity problem. According to the Pew Research Center, Black adults represent just 4 percent of Catholics in the United States. And only 25 percent of Black Catholics say they attend Mass at a church where most of the congregation is of the same race, compared to 80 percent of white Catholics and 67 percent of Hispanic Catholics.
But the Church of England (C0E) is making an effort to get into the fight for racial justice – at least one Sunday a year. Since 1995, they have recognized Racial Justice Sunday, in honor of Stephen Lawrence, a Black teenager who was murdered in South London in 1993. The CoE sees the day as a time “to reflect on the importance of racial justice, to give thanks for the gifts and beauty of human diversity, and to commit to end racism and acts of discrimination.”
For this year’s event, which was held on February 5, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales commissioned a series of posters that depict Jesus and Mary as Black, Asian and Middle Eastern in an effort to reflect the “rich diversity of the church community” and encourage “reflection on how we are all made in the image of God.” Parishes can dowload a PDF of the poster of their choice and the accompanying prayer.
“By highlighting the inherent human dignity of all, we hope to advance the church’s mission to challenge the evil of racism wherever we find it,” said Father Mark Odion in an interview about the initiative with The Independent. “Through my own experience of coming from Nigeria to the UK and working with Catholics from many different ethnic backgrounds, I have seen how important it is to ensure that everyone feels included in the life of the church.”
The Church of England also has its first racial equality director, Guy Hewitt, who works with the Archbishops’ Commission for Racial Justice to root out systemic racism in the Church.
Although the Church is making efforts to promote racial justice, it still has a long way to go. Since only about half of Black adults who were raised Catholic still identify as such, compared with 61 percent of White adults and 68 percent of Hispanic adults, its survival could depend on it.