The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington is seen Dec. 15, 2019. A federal holiday that celebrates the life and accomplishments of the iconic civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is observed Jan. 20 in 2020. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — While the United States has “come a long way” in addressing racism and injustice, much more remains to be accomplished to achieve the dream of “the beloved community” envisioned by the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles urged the country to overcome still-entrenched racist beliefs and discriminatory practices in a statement released in Washington to mark the annual holiday honoring the civil rights leader, which this year falls on Jan. 20.

“We have come a long way in our country, but we have not come nearly far enough,” Archbishop Gomez said in the statement issued Jan. 16 by the USCCB. “Too many hearts and minds are clouded by racist presumptions of privilege and too many injustices in our society are still rooted in racism and discrimination.”

The archbishop lamented that “too many” young African American men are killed across the nation or are “spending their best years behind bars.”

He called on citizens to recommit themselves to assuring that all people have equal opportunity to overcome what Rev. King called “lonely islands of poverty.”

Citing “disturbing outbreaks of racism and prejudice,” the archbishop raised concern about the rise in anti-Semitic attacks, displays of white nationalism and nativism, and violence against Hispanics and other immigrants.

“Such bigotry is not worthy of a great nation. As Catholics and as Americans, we must reject every form of racism and anti-Semitism,” he said.

“Racism is a sin that denies the truth about God and his creation, and it is a scandal that disfigures the beauty of America’s founding vision,” the statement continued. “In our 2018 pastoral letter on racism, my brother bishops and I stated: ‘What is needed, and what we are calling for, is a genuine conversion of heart, a conversion that will compel change and the reform of our institutions and society.'”

Archbishop Gomez urged the country to honor Rev King’s memory by committing to building the “beloved community” the civil rights leader envisioned, “an America where all men and women are treated as children of God, made in his image and endowed with dignity, equality and rights that can never be denied, no matter the color of their skin, the language they speak or the place they were born.”

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Editor’s Note: See the full text of the U.S. bishops’ pastoral against racism here.¬†Other resources on combating racism are available on this page of the USCCB website.