“It is about employment. It is about opportunity. It is about education, and we are going to continue to chip away at it,” Cardinal Blase J. Cupich says, but recognizing: “It is not going to be solved overnight.”
The Archbishop of Chicago stressed this to ZENIT when responding to its question on the reality of gang violence that has plagued his city, especially in certain disadvantaged sections.
According to Chicago police–reports CNN—2016 was Chicago’s deadliest year in nearly two decades, with 773 murders and 4,351 shooting victims. The next year those figures dropped, but murders still totaled 656.
ZENIT recalled that during his remarks in the Vatican briefing on the Synod of Bishops today, he mentioned young people want their concerns to be raised with equal passion and energy by the Church, and these include war, poverty, unemployment, and others.
Therefore, ZENIT asked how the violence in his own city has factored in to the concerns of his young people and the concrete realities for the Church in Chicago, its faithful, its charitable activities in these challenged areas, which have really witnessed bloodshed. It also asked what efforts were being made to protect the people in those areas and help them conquer fear.
“Thank you for that question,” he said, noting: “It is a very important one for me. That is why we initiated an anti-violence program.”
“I appointed a director for this effort. We have put together grant money–I believe 250,000 dollars to start with–for these micro-grants, that would help neighborhoods build an infrastructure or programs that would bring people together in order for there to be a sense of support for people who are at risk.”
In April 2017, the Archdiocese of Chicago launched a violence prevention initiative to increase the capacity and reach of current programs that address the root causes of violence and to identify and actively seek collaboration with like-purposed organizations. The Archdiocese is seeking out and investing in new approaches and collaborations to break the cycles of family instability, despair, racism and poverty and create conditions for peace.
Phil Andrew is the recently appointed Director of Violence Prevention Initiatives with the Archdiocese of Chicago, a role which involves “leading the strategic planning and directing of the Archdiocese’s violence prevention initiatives through coalition-building efforts, increased charitable presence in distressed neighborhoods and development and revitalization of programs to help reduce the violence-causing cycle,” according to its website.
Cardinal Cupich reminded the press that the city has seen a downturn in the violence the past year.
For this to have happened required that everyone worked together, he affirmed, noting this included: “elected officials, surely law enforcement, and the broader business and labor community taking up this task.”
“This is something we can do, if we do it together,” the cardinal said. “That is why I have asked for that kind of cooperation in the city of Chicago and Cook County, “because we do have a role to play. We have a large footprint.”
The Archbishop of Chicago pointed out Chicago provides the largest social services program in the state, noting its presence especially seen through the parishes throughout the South and West Sides of the Windy City.
“We are present there for people, day in and day out,” he said, adding: “But I believe that the success is going to come about and we are going to continue to make more improvement if all of the adults work together, because it is true, there is a saturation, an availability of guns in areas. We also have the issue of the different young people who think they only have one option of gangs.”
“It is about employment. It is about opportunity. It is about education,” he observed, acknowledging: “We are going to continue to chip away at it. It is not going to be solved overnight.”
“But we are fully invested in making sure that this is going to be addressed in a proper way,” the American cardinal concluded.
On the NET:
About Archdiocese of Chicago’s Violence Prevention Programs and Initiatives: https://www.archchicago.org/offices-and-ministries/violence-prevention