Pope Francis has said that the late Martin Luther King Jr’s message of peace remains relevant as the world “increasingly faces the challenges of social injustice, division and conflict.”
“Dr. King’s dream of harmony and equality for all people, attained through nonviolent and peaceful means, remains ever timely,” Pope Francis said on Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
In a message addressed to King’s daughter, Bernice A. King, the pope said it was imperative to see people “in the truth of our shared dignity as children of Almighty God.”
“Only by striving daily to put this vision into practice can we work together to create a community built upon justice and fraternal love,” he said.
Quoting his 2020 encyclical “Fratelli tutti,” the pope said that “each one of us is called to be an artisan of peace by uniting and not dividing, by extinguishing hatred and not holding on to it, by opening paths of dialogue.”
“In this way, we will be able to see ourselves, not as ‘others,’ but as neighbors, in the truth of our shared dignity as children of Almighty God,” said the pope.
Bernice King told Vatican News in June 2020 that she felt a strong sense of harmony between her father and Pope Francis, whom she met twice in 2018.
She said that if Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today he “would be guided by his philosophy of nonviolence, which corresponded with his following of Jesus Christ.”
“He would, as he often did while he was living, share that we cannot cure violence with violence, which he said is a descending spiral,” she said.
King was born in Atlanta, Georgia on Jan. 15, 1929, and devoted his life to the pursuit of racial equality. He spearheaded some of America’s most groundbreaking demonstrations in the name of racial justice.
During the historic 1963 March on Washington, he delivered his now-famous “I Have a Dream” speech to some 250,000 people.
In 1964, at the age of 35, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, making him the youngest person in history at the time to receive the honor.
King’s dream of racial equality inspired children, teenagers, and young adults to join the movement, with many of them attending meetings, marches and demonstrations from an early age.