BY Wilford Shamlin III Tribune Staff Writer
Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower & Rebuild, an affiliate of PICO National Network, led a procession from Sheraton Downtown at 17th and Race streets, culminating with a vigil at a memorial to slaves on Independence Mall.
Supporters called attention to a culture of exclusion that has taken a toll on vulnerable populations, from the poor, immigrants, low-wage workers and families coping financially and emotionally with a relative behind bars.
Bishop Dwayne Royster, executive director of POWER, said the event was a call to action for Pope Francis in addressing social injustices, saying race-based discrimination was often at the root.
“We believe without a shadow of a doubt that the pope, in his role as leader of the Roman Catholic church and a moral voice for the world to call out the racism that exists in this country,” Royster said. “We really believe the pope has the capacity to call out this demon and begin the process of exorcising this demon from the shores of America.”
Specifically, Royster mentioned discrimination against immigrants, inadequate funding of public school systems, unequal pay, police brutality cases and disproportionately high numbers of minorities in jails and prisons.
The rally was sponsored by PICO National Network, which has more than 40 faith-based organizations representing 20 states, including members of Philadelphia-based POWER. A crowd of more than 250 people marched east on Race Street shortly after 5 p.m. Friday, followed by a vanguard of police strike force on bike patrol. Participants chanted out loud: “This is what theology (study of nature of God and religion) looks like.”
They also carried signs with the slogan, “Do You See Me,” and “I am created in the image of God.”
PICO National Network plans to push for increased support for poor and other vulnerable populations as the presidential election season heats up.
The clergy group planned to present a set of values and principles, “God’s Covenant with America.” The group was reaching out to Catholics and people of other faiths on behalf of society’s most excluded members, as part of its “40 Days of Faithful Action.”
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