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St. Louis Archbishop Rozanski: ‘We Know We Have A Ways To Go’

Mitchell T. Rozanski installed at Archbishop of St. Louis
Christian Gooden
St. Louis Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski, center, was installed in September as the leader of a community of more than a half-million Catholics.

Last month, Mitchell Rozanski was installed as the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis. He is now at the helm of an organization that ministers to more than 500,000 Catholics throughout the region.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, Rozanski discussed his first month on the job during a very unusual time. He also addressed the calls from activists to remove the statue of St. Louis the King that sits at the top of Art Hill (and maybe even change the name of the city) due to Louis’ role persecuting Jews and crusading against Muslims.

The archbishop said he believes St. Louis continues to offer an example today’s Catholics can learn from.

“First of all, I look at the life of St. Louis of France. He was a man who was very dedicated to justice. He took care of the poor. He invited his subjects, those who were the poorest of the poor, to his table to dine with him,” he said. “Here in the archdiocese of St. Louis and around our country and around the world, the work for racial justice and reconciliation is far from over. We continue to work with our interfaith partners closely and we see the opportunities for ongoing interfaith dialogue and continued progress.

“So I believe if we look at so many of the good things that King Louis did in his lifetime,” he continued, “he can give us an example to find a way to work through the ills of today.”

Pressed on whether the church also has to confront the darker side of his legacy, Rozanski agreed. “I think we have to look at the entire history of the Catholic Church and the Jewish people,” he said. “We see there have been so many difficulties over the centuries.”

He cited the church’s “Nostra Aetate” document, which in 1965 repudiated anti-Semitism and opened up Jewish-Catholic relations.

“For the past 50 years, we have really had that spirit of cooperation, mutual understanding and working together that has benefited both of our faiths in such wonderful ways,” he said.

Rozanski strongly condemned systemic racism in his installation, saying “the crime against human life and dignity is another, no less devastating, virus” as the coronavirus.

Locally, Jesuits have recently sought out descendants of the enslaved people who worked for their forebears at St. Louis University. Rozanski agreed that their efforts to come to terms with those sins have something in common with the church’s work in recent decades to address a history of sexual abuse by priests.

“We know that the church is made up of humans, and that we are on our way to the kingdom, but we know that the kingdom is not yet here,” the archbishop said. “And so over the years, over the centuries, we’ve looked at different ways that we have not lived up to the call of Jesus in the gospels. We seek to correct those ways. I know the Jesuits have been working on that at Georgetown University, and at St. Louis University, in addressing the sin of racism and of slavery. And that we know we have a ways to go.

“We are a people who ultimately base our hope in the Lord Jesus, who brings us to the goodness of his kingdom. And we address those difficult issues as we work on the way to the kingdom.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske joined St. Louis Public Radio as host of St. Louis on the Air in July 2019. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

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