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Bishop Dwayne Royster to Visit Vatican to Discuss American Racism, Inequality with Advisors to Pope Francis

By June 5, 2015January 15th, 2016No Comments

Bishop Dwayne Royster, POWER’s Executive Director, will leave on Saturday, June 6 on a special week-long delegation to the Vatican representing America’s faith communities involved in struggles for social justice. 

He will join a member of the Ferguson Commission, a DREAMer, Formerly Undocumented Priest, and others to Meet with Pope Francis’ Advisors on “Economic Exclusion” & Racism Hurting America; Plans are to discuss most pressing issues at the center of family life in the U.S.

Contact: Heather Cabral, heather@westendstrategy.com202-550-6880

WASHINGTON, DC — Next week, more than a dozen faith leaders and organizers with the PICO National Network  from across the U.S. will head to the Vatican for a series of meetings with Pope Francis’ top advisors to pull the veil off economic exclusion and racism and to deepen the narrative, in advance of the papal visit, about what is really hurting families in America.

The visit is part of PICO’s ongoing, national efforts through its “Year of Encounter” campaign intended to offer context around economic exclusion, racism and some of the most pressing issues at the center of family struggles in the U.S., including low wages, criminalization of people of color, the immigration deportation machine and detention, and police brutality.

A member of the delegation, Bishop Dwayne Royster, Executive Director for POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower & Rebuild (POWER) points out, “We want to push out the Black protestant voice, the immigrant family voice, the voice closest to the pain of police brutality and racial injustice to make the point that you can’t talk about strengthening families in America, poverty, or any other issue in this nation without talking about race.”

The interfaith delegation represent a cross section of visitors, including a pastor and member of the Ferguson commission, a formerly undocumented priest from California, a DREAMER from Florida and Bishop Royster, a protestant African American bishop from Philadelphia- the poorest big city in the country and the location of the World Families meeting and mass in September.

Their visit comes just after a meeting last month with Cardinal Oscar Rodriquez at the Year of Encounter’s kickoff meeting in Philadelphia, PA, after which baggage handler Sarina Santos was fired for participating in. On Wednesday in Philadelphia, Philadelphia Catholics and interfaith leaders held a prayer vigil in solidarity with Sarina.

“In Philadelphia at the end of April, I shared with hundreds of PICO leaders and Cardinal Rodriquez about the struggle to raise my family while earning just $7.25/hr as a baggage handler at Philadelphia airport,” said Santos. “Cardinal Rodriguez told us to never get discouraged. He told us that we must not allow poverty and exclusion to only be talked about as figures and statistics.”

During the Vatican visit, faith leaders will share personal stories and experiences from Sarina and others.  Several delegation members will Tweet live, share video blogs and other updates. We welcome you to follow their trip via @PICOnetwork.

For interview requests with members of the delegation, please contact: Heather Cabral,heather@westendstrategy.com202-550-6880.

**Below you will find the full list of delegation members**

-Bishop Dwayne Royster (PA), Executive Director, Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower & Rebuild (POWER)

-Father John Baumann (CA), PICO’s Founding Director & Director of Special Projects

-Rev. Traci Blackmon (MO), Pastor Christ, The King United Church of Christ

-Sr. Maureen Brown, (CA) Faith leader with the San Diego Organizing Project (SDOP)

-Joe Fleming (NJ), Executive Director, Faith in New Jersey

-Rev. Alvin Herring, Deputy Director, PICO National Network

-Michael-Ray Mathews, (CA), Director of Clergy Organizing, PICO

-Pastor Michael McBride (CA), Director, LIVE FREE Campaign

-Father Jesus Nieto-Ruiz, (CA) Our Lady of Rosary Church, Oakland Community Organizations

-Nancy Palacios (FL), Lead Community Organizer. Faith in Florida

-Doran Schrantz (MN), Executive Director, ISAIAH

-Sarah Silviafierro, (NM) Executive Director, Café, NM Comunidades en Accion y de Fe

-Deacon Allen Stevens, (LA), St. Peter Claver Catholic Church, New Orleans

-Scott Reed, (CA), Executive Director, PICO

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About PICO National Network: PICO National Network is the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the United States. PICO works with 1,000 religious congregations in more than 200 cities and towns through its 60 local and state federations. PICO and its federations are non-partisan and do not endorse or support candidates for office. PICO urges people of faith to consult their faith traditions for guidance on specific policies and legislation. Learn more at

About POWER: POWER represents congregations from across the Philadelphia region, bringing people together across the lines of race, faith, income level and neighborhood — lines which have historically kept our city and state divided.  POWER is committed to the work of bringing about justice here and now and seeks to exercise power in the public arena by strengthening and mobilizing our networks, so that the needs and priorities of all Philadelphians are reflected in the systems and policies that shape our city.  POWER is nonpartisan and is not aligned explicitly or implicitly with any candidate or party.  We do not endorse or support candidates for office. Learn more at