Monday, January 18, 2016

On Martin Luther King Day: Black Catholics in the Church

Since today is Martin Luther King Day, I thought it might be worthwhile to point out the diversity that exists among the saints of the Catholic Church. Most of the time I think when a person hears the words "Catholic saint" the image of a white European guy comes to mind. But, Africans and African-Americans have also made a significant contribution to the life of the Church. This statement seems so obvious to me that it feels trite to even point it out. But, in the US there is a stereotype that Catholicism is only "for white people", and I want to put that to rest.

According to the National Black Catholic Congress, "270 million Catholics of African descent represent almost 25% of the one billion Roman Catholics throughout the world in more than 59 countries" (source). Almost 3 million of these live in the United States (source).

There are also many African and African-American saints. Here are just a few:

You may be surprised to find that at least three popes were of African descent:

For a list of current and deceased African-American and Black bishops, go here. Wikipedia's List of African-American Firsts is a great tribute as well. For more on Blacks in the Catholic Church, see The National Black Catholic Congress and the USCCB Subcommittee on African American Affairs.

Pax Christi,


  1. Also St. Athanasius' nickname was "the black dwarf".

    There needs to be a movement in the black community (especially the Catholic one) to look to these great African saints and Jesus as role models before looking at modern civil rights leaders.

  2. Yea, I think you're right, Tim.

  3. St. Moses the Black, eh? That reminds me of a discussion I saw somewhere recently (on Jimmy Akin's blog, perhaps) about naming Old Testament fathers in the Litany of the Saints. The conclusion was that you usually can't modify the Litany of the Saints, but I wonder if someone who mentioned "St. Moses" would even think to claim that they just removed this saint's epithet and didn't really mean the man of the Ten Commandments.


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