Cardinal Wuerl Honors Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Annual Concert and Mass

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

January 17, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington was the principal celebrant and homilist for the Archdiocese of Washington’s annual Mass celebrating the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The annual Mass celebrating Dr. King draws Catholics of all backgrounds and not only celebrates the memory of Dr. King, but also celebrates the rich history of black Catholics in the archdiocese. This year’s Mass was held at Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian parish in Washington with the theme, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” a quote from King’s famous 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail which was the theme of this year’s commemoration.

Cardinal Wuerl began his homily by referencing the letter, saying, “Many in Dr. King’s time did not want him to speak for a just society, for freedom and equality for black men and women, boys and girls who had been victims of long-standing discrimination,” he said. “There were also those described as lukewarm who did not want to hear Dr. King’s message, preferring, as he says in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, the ‘absence of tension’ to the ‘presence of justice.’ But Dr. King insisted that we must be like the early Christians and work to transform the culture.”

“In a culture where racism was rampant and devaluing others was the order of the day, Dr. King quietly, forcefully, without violence and always faithful to the Gospel, simply reminded this society, this culture, this nation, that we are all one in the Spirit, we are all sisters and brothers because we are all children of the same God. If one is treated unjustly, we are all affected. None of us can turn a blind eye, none of us can remain silent, none of us can be passive in the face of oppression, violence and assaults on the fundamental dignity of the human person. Each of us is responsible for the harmony that should reflect the presence of God’s kingdom in our world. In a democracy, every citizen must accept some responsibility for the direction of the country. Especially as people of faith, we need to bring our moral values and vision to the market place,” said the Cardinal

We have made many great strides, Cardinal Wuerl said, but asked if Dr. King’s dream had been fully realized yet. “If we look at families and neighborhoods across our land, if we look at our schools and workplaces, if we look at our courtrooms and prisons, if we look at our streets and see people again marching with signs saying ‘black lives matter,’ then we see that, while we have made great progress, we still have a ways to go yet.” The Cardinal spoke of the annual March for Life to be held next week on the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize abortion, saying, “…we see people of all races and faiths marching together in defense of the dignity of human life in all its stages, if we look across our nation and see people of faith being pressured to act against their religion or look to the Middle East and Nigeria and elsewhere in the world and see people maimed, kidnapped and killed by groups like ISIS and Boko Haram, then we see that we as a people have not yet come to the Promised Land. There is still a distance to travel. On this journey we need to do our part. At the heart of our participation is our faith in Christ, his Gospel, his call to human solidarity and above all his love.”

“In the quiet assurance that it is God’s justice we proclaim when we do our part to live Jesus’ Gospel of love, we know we can make a difference. In this way we can change hearts. If enough hearts are changed, people will be changed. If enough people are changed, the world will also be changed, the Cardinal concluded.

At the end of the Mass, the winners of the essay contest co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington’s Office of Black Catholics and the Catholic Schools Office were recognized and honored. Deacon Al Turner, the director of the Office of Black Catholics, called each student forward and Cardinal Wuerl presented them with an award plaque. The essays were based on the theme of this year’s celebration, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and the following students were recognized:

  • First Place: Will Harless, Little Flower School – Great Mills
  • Second Place: Lucas Scheider, St. Bernadette School – Silver Spring
  • Third Place: Olivia Orr, St. Raphael School – Rockville
  • Fourth Place: Kidan Tesfamichael, St. Augustine School, Washington, D.C.


The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

Chieko Noguchi
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