Cardinal Rigali to lead Dr. King prayer service

By Nadia Maria Smith
CS&T Staff Writer

After a year of increases in murders and attacks on Philadelphia police officers, the 26th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Interfaith Prayer Service seems all the more crucial.

The prayer service will begin at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 18, at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church located at 63rd and Callowhill Streets in West Philadelphia. Cardinal Justin Rigali will preside and offer a reflection on the Gospel message witnessed in the life of Dr. King.

“The sense of peace has become more poignant in recent years considering the issue of violence in Philadelphia,” said Father Stephen Thorne, the director of the Office for Black Catholics. “West Philadelphia, like many neighborhoods in Philly, needs the message of peace, reconciliation and that we are all God’s children. It goes back to recognizing that every person is made in the image and likeness of God from the unborn to the very end of life, which is often forgotten.

Martin Luther King lived that and the idea of nonviolence. We need that again. He never responded with violence even when he was dealt with violence.”

The event, sponsored by the Office for Black Catholics and the Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, will bring together key leaders from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities.

“The Archdiocese wanted to bring people together, embracing our fellow Christians, Jews and Muslims to remember what Dr. King died for,” Father Thorne added.

The Martin Luther King Interfaith Prayer Service was begun by Cardinal John Krol in 1982 as a way to recognize the person of Dr. King and what he represents to the nation, he said.

“[Cardinal Rigali] has always been generous and presided over this program,” Father Thorne said. “It’s been a priority for him since he became Archbishop of Philadelphia.”

“The people of Blessed Sacrament are very happy to host it. The parish is going to try to get the young people involved … [because] for them Martin Luther King Jr. is a figure of history but it is so important the children learn his message of nonviolence, peace and respecting all people.”

All are invited to attend and Father Thorne notes “it will be a great celebration and a great way to begin the new year.”

CS&T staff writer Nadia Maria Smith may be reached at or (215) 965-4614.