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Martin Luther King’s daughter considers Pope Francis’ vision


Robert Kneschke | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 06/23/20

Bernice Albertine King compares pope's "Revolution of Tenderness" with father's "Revolution of Values."

The daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bernice Albertine King, met with Pope Francis in March 2018 and presented him with the sixth volume of the series The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Advocate of the Social Gospel.

This week, King recalled her meeting with the pope in light of America’s current grappling with issues having to do with race.

In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano and Vatican News this week, King reaffirmed the non-violent approach her father took to seeking social justice. She spoke in the midst of ongoing protests in America and other parts of the world, sparked by the May 25 death of a black man in Minneapolis, George Floyd, while in police custody.

Here are some excerpts from the interview with Bernice King, president of the King Center in Atlanta:

Pope Francis launched an appeal after George Floyd’s death. He said that we cannot close our eyes before racism. At the same time he recalled that violence only leads to self-destruction.  How did you receive his words which are so in tune with your father’s?
I agree with Pope Francis that violence only leads to self-destruction. Our means must cohere with our desired end, and if that desired end is peace, we certainly cannot achieve peace with violent methods. This is aligned with my father’s beliefs, as well. He stated and believed, as do I, that “Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time.” In his last speech, I’ve Been To The Mountaintop, delivered the night before he was assassinated, he said, “It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.” That is still where we are today. We are facing a choice between chaos or community. If we embrace violence, we are thereby selecting chaos, which ultimately leads to self-destruction in our World House. If we embrace nonviolence, we will advance in building a more just, equitable, humane, and peaceful world.

Martin Luther King said: Justice “at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.” This is the heart of the message about the nonviolence your father embodied. How can we build this “revolution of tenderness,” as Pope Francis calls it?
I think that building a “revolution of tenderness,” as Pope Francis called it, or a “revolution of values,” as my father said, is contingent upon us realizing that there’s learning involved in the revolution. We have to learn more about each other, learn more about the condition of humanity, learn how to, as my father said, “live together as brothers and sisters,” so that we don’t perish together as fools, and learn a way of engaging and destroying injustice and inhumanity without destroying each other. I believe that way is nonviolence. Kingian Nonviolence, which The King Center calls Nonviolence365, is the method of thinking and acting, inclusive of six principles and six steps, that can guide us in the revolution.

Pope Francis
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