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Cardinal Wilton Gregory to receive award for anti-death penalty advocacy

The nation's Black cardinal, known for his longtime advocacy against the death penalty, will receive an award this October for his activism.

(Catholic Mobilizing Network)

WASHINGTON — Cardinal Wilton Gregory has been named an honoree for this year’s Justice Reimagined Awards from Catholic Mobilizing Network, celebrating anti-death penalty advocacy.

The event, scheduled for October 10 at the Vatican embassy in Washington DC, was announced earlier this month.

“Join CMN on World Day Against the Death Penalty 2022 at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, DC as we honor anti-death penalty advocates and celebrate this growing movement to build a culture of life,” the organization said in an announcement.

SAVE THE DATE! Mark your calendars for October 10, World Day Against the Death Penalty, and join us for "Justice Reimagined Awards & Celebration." Click here to learn more!

Posted by Catholic Mobilizing Network on Thursday, August 4, 2022

Alongside Gregory, the gathering will honor Vicki and Syl Schieber, two longtime death penalty abolitionists from Pennsylvania whose daughter was murdered in 1998. Vicki has served as an ambassador for CMN and contributed to two books in partnership with the organization, “Where Justice and Mercy Meet: Catholic Opposition to the Death Penalty” and “Redemption and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Restorative Justice.”

Gregory, who has served as Archbishop of Washington since 2019, is among the most outspoken US bishops on the issue of capital punishment. He has issued multiple statements condemning executions dating back to his episcopal tenures in Illinois and Atlanta, and was published in America Magazine on the topic in December 2019—just ahead of the Trump administration's resumption of federal executions.

Gregory’s cathedral homily on Good Friday this year also honed in on the death penalty, calling it “just another link in the horror of violence.”

“We must all be deeply disturbed to consider that our judicial systems are unjust to the poor, the illiterate, the mentally impeded, or those who lack the means to speak sufficiently for and about themselves.”

Gregory was also featured in a death penalty webinar in February with Sr Helen Prejean, CSJ—who serves on the host committee for the Justice Reimagined event, alongside Gloria Purvis, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, and several others.

The awards ceremony will also feature the winner of CMN’s Justice & Mercy Poetry Contest for Young Catholics, which was held earlier this year. The first-place winner, Katherine Scott of Madison, Wisconsin, will read her poem “Terre Haute, Again” at the event in DC as part of an all-expenses-paid trip.

“Young people are the future of our Church and the death penalty abolition movement,” said CMN executive director Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy on the purpose of the contest, which was in its first year.

“They understand that the death penalty perpetuates racism, targets vulnerable populations, and risks innocent lives. For all these reasons, we have little doubt that young people will ultimately be the driving force behind ending capital punishment in the U.S.”

CMN itself is the nation’s premier Catholic organization advocating against capital punishment, and was founded in January 2009 by Karen Clifton. A predecessor, Catholics Against Capital Punishment (CACP), was founded in 1992 and folded its operations into CMN roughly a decade ago.

In addition to producing restorative justice resources from a Catholic perspective—including Pope Francis' recent outlawing of the death penalty in the Catechism—the organization regularly organizes online petitions against upcoming executions and livestreams a monthly First Friday Prayer Vigil with clergy, other Church leaders, and activists.

Tickets for the Justice Reimagined Awards event are $175 and can be purchased on the event website. Young adults age 30 and under can receive a discounted rate of $75.

Sponsorships are also available, including ticket packages and recognition in the event program. Advertisements can also be purchased starting at $175 for a quarter-page feature; the deadline for ad submissions is September 14.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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