Participants in a Vatican webinar have condemned racism as a “blasphemy against the Creator” and a “sin against the message of Christ”.
“Racism, Women and the Catholic Church” was the title of the event that took place November 23, organised by the LUMSA University in Rome alongside the department for women of the Pontifical Council for Culture and various ambassadors to the Holy See.
Opening the webinar, the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, recalled Pope Francis’ powerful message at the General Audience June 3 in the wake of the white police killing of Black man George Floyd in the US, on which occasion the pontiff said: “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life”.
Ravasi insisted that “the fight against racism does not presuppose uniformity, but multiplicity in unity”.
The cardinal turned to support his claim to the Old Testament, where the Hebrew word for Adam in the book of Genesis – adamah – has the meaning of “humanity”.
In that sense we are all the one humanity, “we are all Adam”, Ravasi explained.
The Vatican culture minister also cited the New Testament texts of Galatians 3:28 – “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” – and Colossians 3:11 – “There is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!”
Ravasi went on to decry racism as “the negation of relationship” and as “a form of social and spiritual denialism” of the diversity of the Other.
To combat the sin of racial prejudice, the cardinal insisted on the need to go out towards the Other and at the same time to recognise their difference.
Consuelo Corradi, the president of the department for women in the Vatican culture dicastery, agreed with Ravasi and denounced that racism today is “a very serious social emergency” that far from being eradicated is still present “every day” in many countries.
– Congolese nun: “Racism must be combated through the formation of conscience”
Another speech at the Vatican anti-racism webinar Monday came from Sister Rita Mboshu Kongo, a Congolese theologian and professor at the Pontifical Urban University who emphasised the importance of education as a tool to combat prejudice.
“Racism must be combated through the formation of conscience”, the nun insisted, also calling on the Church “to be more committed to the formation of religious women… so that they have an adequate formation for the apostolate that is required of them”.
For her part, Miroslava Rosas Vargas, the ambassador of the Republic of Panama to the Holy See, decried that “racial prejudice is a blasphemy against the Creator” and “a sin that goes against the message of Christ” which must therefore “be tackled at its root”.
– Human fraternity the way forward since “we are all created in the image and likeness of God”
Monday’s webinar against prejudice was moderated by sociologist at the Sapienza University of Rome Silvia Cataldi, who problematised the whole concept of “race” since as she pointed out, science has shown that genetic differences between individuals are in fact of greater import than supposed “racial” differences between groups of people.
In no way did Cataldi negate, however, that “race” continues to be a motive for violence and even genocides in our world today.
The sociologist also linked racism to sexism – another discriminatory phenomenon based on the same mechanism of generalisation, marginalisation and vilification.
As for how to combat the sin of racial prejudice, participants in the webinar agreed that Pope Francis shows the way forward in his new encyclical Fratelli tutti, where the pontiff draws attention to the problem by denouncing that “instances of racism continue to shame us, for they show that our supposed social progress is not as real or definitive as we think” (20).
But just as perceptively as the Pope identifies racism in Fratelli tutti as “a virus that quickly mutates and, instead of disappearing, goes into hiding, and lurks in waiting” (97), he astutely provides the fix – that of human fraternity and social friendship.
For as the webinar participants recalled: all of us humans, “we are all brothers and sisters, created in the image and likeness of God”.