Cardinal Blase Cupich called on the United States to discuss the impact of slavery not only on African Americans but the nation as a whole to heal the country and reduce violence.
Cupich offered his thesis during a question-and-answer session after a talk to more than 500 people about interfaith dialogue January 29 at North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe, which hosted the event.
After talking about the role of family, education and mentoring to help people seek more productive, less violent lives, Cupich turned to the topic of slavery. He said it is holding the country back from a communal healing.
“We need to have a discussion about the impact of slavery on the African-American community,” said Cupich. “Until we discuss this as a nation we can’t stop the impact slavery has on our current generation and future generations.”
Slavery is still a burden on the lives not only of the descendants of slaves but for everyone else, according to Cupich. He likened the need for the discussion to the way post-World War II Germany dealt with the Holocaust.
“They took responsibility for what happened so future generations would understand and pass it on to the next,” said Cupich in a DailyNorthShore.com interview after the event. “If we don’t have that discussion, racism will continue into the next generation and the next.”
After the cardinal’s talk, Rabbi Wendi Geffen of North Shore Congregation told DNS the discussion would be a good idea. She said the Jewish and Catholic communities could present a united front.
Reaching out to youth as a way to reach not only young people but their children and their children’s children was a major theme of Cupich’s talk, whether he was discussing violence or a lack of attachment to faith. He said an open dialogue between different faiths is one way to help solve a problem they all share.
Cupich shared the story of a woman who worried her grandchildren would not be Catholics.
“She said ‘I wonder if I will be the last Catholic in my family’,” said Cupich.
He said part of the reason for the lack of religious affiliation today is what he calls the “nones.”
“When people are asked about their religious affiliation, they say none,” said Cupich. “The focus on self is bringing identity politics into religion. We need outreach to rebuild the social fabric of our country. We need to have concern for the weak, the poor.”
Like the discussion he wants the country to have about slavery, Cupich said memory “is the key to assessing the future and handing it to the next generation.”
Cupich said the need for outreach goes beyond parents teaching their children so their grandchildren will have the grounding to care for others.
The first person to ask a question wanted to know how Cupich suggested building bridges when there are apparently irreconcilable differences between faiths. The questioner used the example of those who believe life begins with conception and others who think it starts with the first breath. Cupich suggested focusing on what the two views have in common.
“We should look at how life is good and to protect it,” said Cupich. “We share a concern about helping to make them a better person.”