In a pastoral reflection on racial tensions arising from the O.J. Simpson trial, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony said this week that Roman Catholics have a major responsibility to show how to live in harmony in culturally diverse Southern California.
Catholics make up 34% of the population in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, Mahony said.
"No other religious community in Southern California has our record membership--estimated at more than 4 million--nor the diversity of racial and ethnic makeup as we do," he said. "Consequently, no other major group in Southern California has a greater opportunity--and responsibility--to demonstrate vividly and clearly how to live together in harmony, unity, and with a deeper sense of the common good for all of us."
Mahony's remarks came less than one week after Pope John Paul II, on a pastoral visit to the East Coast, called on Catholics and all Americans to come to a sense of "solidarity" with one another.
Mahony, who is the Roman Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles, the nation's largest archdiocese, urged parishes to call together leaders of different ethnic and racial groups within the congregations to create new forums for dialogue.
These discussions, he said, can lead to special joint celebrations at Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas.
He also noted that the archdiocese's offices of African American Ministry, Hispanic Ministry and Asian Pacific Ministry and its ministries to other ethnic groups are ideally positioned to meet the challenge of fostering racial harmony.
Young people, he said, have a special opportunity to demonstrate racial and ethnic understanding in their confirmation programs, Catholic high schools, and youth and young adult ministries.
"Do not think that we can sit back and wait for government or someone else to deal with the tensions and difficulties in our midst," the cardinal said. "The answers we long for so desperately are within our reach if we would only realize it and accept the graces of this moment."