Archdiocese initiative aims to curb Chicago violence

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Pope Francis has expressed support for a new Archdiocese of Chicago effort to combat Chicago gun violence.

"Make a commitment, starting today to do everything we can do to end the scourge of violence in our neighborhoods," Cardinal Cupich said during his announcement Tuesday at the Peace Corner Youth Center on the city's West Side.

As part of the effort, church leaders plan to invest $250,000 to start the Peace Venture Philanthropy Fund, which will include funding from the archdiocese and other donors.

Pope Francis sent a letter of support to Cardinal Cupich.


In a letter to Cardinal Cupich, the pontiff said: "Please convey to the people of Chicago that they have been on my mind and in my prayers. I know that many families have lost loved ones to violence. I am close to them, I share in their grief, and pray that they may experience healing and reconciliation through God's grace."

Not far from the Cardinal's announcement is a program that is on the Archdiocese radar, however it was immediately unclear which programs the Cardinal would fund.

Banner Academy on the West Side is an alternative high school that is housed in a building that used to house a Catholic school. School officials hope to offer more alternatives for young people in the future.

Most of the students dropped out of other schools but they attend Banner Academy to learn marketable skills and, more importantly, open their worlds to possibilities beyond their neighborhoods.

Banner student Jevonthae Jones said he's lost a lot of friends to violence.

"When you wake up, you think like, 'Another day I might lose my life. Another day I might go to jail,'" Jones said.

Now he wants to start a product line of his own, maybe even his own store.

"They know, 'Oh, wow, now I have access to more things that are part of the larger fabric what Chicago's all about,'" said Flavian Prince, of Banner Academy, of the students.

The archdiocese's anti-violence efforts include a "Walk for Peace" on Good Friday through the city's Englewood neighborhood.

The archdiocese, along with its parishes and ministries, including Catholic Charities, Mercy Home for Boys & Girls, and Kolbe House, plan to increase the capacity and reach of its current programs that address root causes of violence.

Also on Tuesday, the Archdiocese announced that it hopes to hold the first U.S. meeting of the Scholas Occurentes in Chicago next year. The Scholas program, now active in more than 100 countries, brings young people together for a week of encounter, discussion and problem solving.
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