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Catholics launch anti-racism campaign

The island's Catholic congregation is a reflection of failure to overcome the racial divide, the leader of the Church in Bermuda said yesterday. The Right Reverend Wesley Spiewak, Catholic Bishop of Bermuda, said the low number of black Catholic Bermudians “gives me a clear idea that we were never very welcoming to these persons”.

Bishop Spiewak added: “It's not that we can change the past, but I believe we should shape the mindset of our people making them more welcoming, more open.”

He said the church historically “did not do enough” globally to combat racial prejudice.

He added: “We have been, and we are still, a very white church.

“And this, for me, does not reflect what Catholicism means.

“Catholic means universal; we never became universal in this sense.”

Bishop Spiewak was speaking as the Catholic Church in Bermuda prepares to launch an anti-racism campaign, the brainchild of its peace and social justice committee.

Previous committee campaigns have highlighted Bermuda's ageing population and the environment.

The six-month anti-racism drive will start with a series of workshops next month.

The workshops will be followed by a September event designed to look at Bermuda's history and the country's record of systemic racism, with a focus on education and employment.

The campaign will end with a conference at Mount Saint Agnes Academy in Hamilton on November 2.

Ed Olson, a professor at Maryland University, and Bryan Massingale, a professor at Fordham University, will both speak at the event which is free and open to the public.

Joanne Wohlmuth, chairman of the peace and social justice committee, said that the nine-person team had been working on the campaign since January. She said the anti-racism drive will tackle a “disregard and a lack of appreciation for otherness” in the world today.

Ms Wohlmuth added: “Our intention is not to pick on our particular church community, but just to begin to look at how we look at this whole issue of racism in the context of our church teachings.

“We need to draw attention to these kinds of things to begin to make a difference.”

Ms Wohlmuth said she hoped the campaign would examine the responsibility of the church to make changes to “bring about a better community”.

Bishop Spiewak said that he welcomed the move.

He added it was important that the church played a role in easing racial tensions on the island. Bishop Spiewak said that a “frank and honest” discussion was important.

He added: “I would like our people to be more and more open to diversity.

“This is the reality of the world and this is what makes our world also a great place — the diversity, not the uniformity.”

Bishop Spiewak said he hoped the campaign would help increase awareness of the racial divide on the island.

He said: “It doesn't mean that it's going to change everything.

“But awareness, it's important, because many changes can happen when we become aware of certain things.”

The Right Reverend Wesley Spiewak, Bishop of Bermuda

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Published May 30, 2018 at 9:00 am (Updated May 30, 2018 at 6:17 pm)

Catholics launch anti-racism campaign

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