The Archdiocese of Washington will host a virtual webinar alongside Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life on October 7th featuring a number of Black Catholics—including Cardinal Wilton Gregory.

Entitled “Who is my Neighbor? Washington, Afghanistan and Haiti”, the event is reportedly in response to a request from the Holy Father himself.

“Pope Francis has asked the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington to bring together young people to reflect on this message,” the event page reads.

Georgetown and the archdiocese are responding with monthly events throughout the rest of the year, under the title “Pope Francis, Young People, and Solidarity: Dialogues on Fratelli Tutti”, in reference to the pontiff’s groundbreaking encyclical released exactly one year ago today.

Thursday’s event is the first in the series, hot on the heels of the political unrest, presidential assassination, and devastating earthquake in Haiti, as well as the controversial—and deadly—US military pullout from Afghanistan after decades of interventionism and war.

Both events have led to a surge in migrants to the United States, and resultant animosity in some circles—including Catholics. Complicating issues is the ongoing racial reckoning occurring stateside, which has energized a variety of factions in support of (and in opposition to) equality.

Thursday’s event in response will feature a half-dozen speakers, including an intro from Gregory, who is a member of the Vatican Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life. He has been outspoken in recent months on issues of immigration, justice, and Catholic Social Teaching generally, and is the leader of the most diverse diocese in the country.

He will be joined by Muzhgan Azizy, a former university professor and recently arrived refugee from Afghanistan with experience working for both the US and the Afghan governments. She will be joined by Juan Aznaran, who works for DC Catholic Charities in their immigration wing, and Omayma El Ella from the Democracy Fund and the Aziz Foundation.

Representing the archdiocese alongside Gregory will be Gerald Smith Jr., a Catholic school administrator currently serving as principal at St Thomas More Catholic Academy in DC. Rounding out the group is Reynold Hyppolite, who leads youth programming for Catholic Relief Services Haiti and will speak on his country’s current recovery process.

The event will air live on Thursday at 7pm ET, and interested parties can register on the Georgetown website here. Accommodation requests can be sent to cathsocialthought@georgetown.edu.


Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).


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