By Lisa Zengarini
Amidst growing street violence in the city, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago has called on Catholics and “all people of good will” to resist the temptation to retreat to what they consider “a safe space”, but rather to engage in dialogue and listening.
Over 2000 people shot in Chicago in 2021
The Chicago Police Department reported a record of 100 shootings during the Independence Day weekend holiday, with 14 dead, including 2 children, and 83 injured. The shootings have raised more questions about security in the city. 2,019 people have been shot in Chicago as of July 4 2021, an increase of almost 13% over last year and a 58% increase in shootings compared with 2019.
A “spiritual crisis”
Following the latest incidents, Cardinal Cupich has issued a Pastoral Letter reflecting on the issue and suggesting a possible way to invert this dangerous trend which threatens everybody. “Understandably, we want this horrifying situation resolved without delay”, he writes, recalling that Government leaders and community activists have offered many ideas, including “more effective policing, reforming the criminal justice system, stemming the flood of illegal guns, dismantling gangs, investment in historically disadvantaged neighborhoods, strengthening education and shoring up family life”. On his part, Cardinal Cupich points to the underlying “spiritual crisis” that this violent and unstable situation has provoked.
We are inextricably connected with each other
“When violence prompts grief, fear, and a loss of hope, as it always does, people feel alienated from one another. On one level, the fractures appear to be along the lines of race, ethnicity, economic class, and political affiliation. But it runs much deeper than that”, he notes. “We seem unable or unwilling to comprehend that we are inextricably connected with each other”. “Yet we truly are all brothers and sisters to each other”, the prelate points out citing Pope Francis’ Encyclical ‘Fratelli tutti’ and Martin Luther King’s words in 1964. “If we lose that sense of interconnectedness, we also lose our sense of compassion, empathy and responsibility for each other”.
Asking questions, listening, praying and staying connected
As a way forward, Cardinal Cupich therefore suggests five steps. The first step is to “ask questions”, but being “prepared to authentically listen, even when what we are hearing proves painful”. The second step proposed is dialogue, that is seeking “honest exchanges with people of different backgrounds”, which helps mutual understanding and empathy. Cardinal Cupich also suggests praying, to ask for enlightenment and discerning God’s will.
“If you want peace, work for justice”
Finally, he recommends “staying connected”: “The great temptation during a time of crisis is to retreat to what we consider a safe space”, he says. “In fact, what we most need is to go out of our comfort zones and accompany one another, even when that calls for effort and even some risk”.
The letter concludes with the words of Psalm 91: God, my refuge, and of Pope Paul VI: “If you want peace, work for justice.”