RACISM is a "blasphemy against God", Cardinal Basil Hume said last Friday.
He was speaking to the annual meeting of the Catholic Association for Racial Justice, one day after the advisory commission on racism in Westminster Diocese reported that blacks face persistent discrimination in Catholic churches and schools.
"Racial inequality constitutes a serious threat to the stability of our country", the cardinal said. "Racial inequality is worsening, racial attacks are increasing and there tends to be a conspiracy of silence about racial violence.
"All too easily, people in white residential areas can think that racism has nothing to do with them. This breeds complacency and encourages inactivity".
Cardinal Hume praised the Catholic Association for Racial Justice, especially for its work in helping teachers prepare children for life in a culturally and racially diverse society. He urged clergy and laity to support the association both actively and financially.
The impetus for the high-level campaign against racism was the report of the all-black commission created to advise the cardinal on the Church's ministry to the black community.
The 10-member panel found that the Church reflected much of the racism that pervaded society.
The virtual absence of priestly vocations among blacks was blamed on the inability of the young to identify with a whiterun church. At present there is not a single British-born black priest in the country.
Priests in black areas were criticised for reluctance to accommodate Caribbean forms of worship in the liturgy. Many young blacks were either abandoning their religion or joining small, black-led Protestant sects that offered a. greater sense of identity and involvement.
The panel also said that Catholic teachers had a low opinion of the ability of black students and failed to encourage them as a result. Schools were condemned for preferring white non-Catholics to blacks in the competition for places.