December 11, 2020

Amber Roseboom
Director of Media Relations
Catholic Diocese of Arlington

Catholic Diocese of Arlington's New Advisory Council on Racism Concludes Fall and Winter Meetings, Sets Robust Agenda for Coming Year 

Bishop Burbidge Convenes Two Council Meetings Before the Close of the Year, Asks Council to Develop and Oversee Implementation of Plan to Address Racism in all its Forms in the Diocese

ARLINGTON, Va. - The Diocese of Arlington's new Advisory Council on Racism is setting a robust agenda for the new year. Consisting of Black clergy and lay men and women from across the Diocese, the council is working to advise Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Catholic Diocese of Arlington, on issues related to race, identifying where instances of racism, prejudice and bias have impacted individuals and broader communities in the Diocese. The council will develop and oversee implementation of an action plan, in conjunction with leaders from diverse communities across the Diocese, that offers achievable ways to address racism and bring about positive change. Having met twice already, on October 28 and December 3, the council will meet in person and virtually on an increased, monthly basis beginning in January.

“The council's first two meetings were extraordinarily fruitful as members shared often painful experiences and began exploring concrete steps to address the sin of racism in our diocese. Central to the discussion was the need for ongoing and increased prayer, dialogue, education and parish outreach,” said Bishop Burbidge. “I am grateful to the council members for their commitment to lead this important effort. Together, by the grace of God, we can help bring about a transformation in our communities so that the God-given human dignity of each person is fully respected. As we move forward, I continue to pray that this council's work will help bring us closer to the goal of creating genuine conversion that will compel change and the reform of our institutions and society.”

The initial council meeting, October 28, began with an honest look at racism in the Diocese, as council members shared their personal and professional experiences encountering racism. At the December 3 meeting, members discussed a strategic approach, as well as concrete steps, to address the sin of racism for the short and long-term. Recommendations included listening sessions, parish-based educational activities and workshops, and an ongoing focus on prayer. The council intends to have a formal mission statement by the end of the year.

For the names and bios of the full council, see here.

“I applaud Bishop Burbidge's leadership and courage in undertaking this important effort within the Diocese of Arlington. In Galatians 5:13-14, St. Paul says we are to 'serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: love your neighbor as yourself.' In taking this very visible stand against racism, the Bishop is putting St. Paul's words into action,” said council member James Crawford. “This is what Dr. King had in mind when he spoke of the 'Beloved Community.' In essence, we are to view one another as sisters and brothers, without exception, to warmly embrace individuality, and to be the active agents of change in our world reflecting the teachings of our Lord, Jesus Christ in our daily life expressions.  I feel incredibly privileged to be a part of this effort.”

In November, during National Black Catholic History Month, council members Deacon Gerard-Marie Anthony and Melissa Rihl were guests on the diocesan Searching for More podcast to discuss racism in America and how we should respond as Catholics.

Bishop Burbidge announced the decision to form an advisory council on racism on August 1, 2020, at a prayer service on racism. He has established the council to build upon a number of initiatives the Diocese has undertaken to address racism. On the memorial of St. Peter Claver, Bishop Burbidge celebrated a Mass for Peace in Our Communities. In August, Bishop Burbidge and Catholic Charities hosted a forum to address racism, “Racism: Understanding, Conversion, and Action." Bishop Burbidge also celebrated a Mass and then led an evening Rosary for the Preservation of Peace and Justice. Last year, he held a listening session on racism, which was widely attended.

In March 2021, the Diocese of Arlington's Peace and Justice Commission will host “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love,” a forum to address racism which will include Mass and a panel discussion. This forum was originally scheduled for March this year and has been rescheduled due to the onset of the coronavirus.

Interested media, please contact Amber Roseboom, Director of Media Relations, Catholic Diocese of Arlington, at 571-215-8731 or


The Catholic Diocese of Arlington was established on August 13, 1974, and is home to 71 parishes and more than 460,000 Catholics. There are currently 276 priests serving in the Diocese and 45 seminarians discerning a priestly vocation. The Diocese has 37 parish (K-8) schools, four diocesan high schools, four independent Catholic schools and five free-standing (not connected with a parish school) pre-schools, serving more than 17,000 students. 

The Diocese includes the seven cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fredericksburg, Manassas, Manassas Park, and Winchester and the 21 counties of Arlington, Clarke, Culpeper, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, King George, Lancaster, Loudoun, Madison, Northumberland, Orange, Page, Prince William, Rappahannock, Richmond, Shenandoah, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Warren and Westmoreland.