The occasion of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday offers a good opportunity to share this photo taken during his audience with Pope Paul VI on September 18, 1964. It’s also a good chance to share the pontiff’s reflections on Dr. King’s death, which he delivered in his sermon at the 1968 Palm Sunday Mass:
Brothers and sons, we cannot omit to mention here also the sad remembrance which weighs upon the conscience of the world, that of the cowardly and atrocious killing of Martin Luther King. We shall associate this memory with that of the tragic story of the passion of Christ, which we have just read. A few years ago, we received in audience this Christian preacher who taught the human and civil promotion of his Negro people on American soil. We know of the ardor of his preaching. And on that occasion we, too, presumed to recommend to him that violence be avoided, that every effort should be made to establish brotherhood and cooperation between the two races, white and Negro. All the greater, therefore, is our sorrow for his tragic death, and all the stronger is our deploring of this crime. Our sorrow is made greater and all the more fearful because of the violent and disorderly reactions provoked by this sad event. But our hope also grows, as we see that, among all responsible persons, and in the very heart of the people themselves, there rises up the desire and the undertaking of drawing, from the unjust death of Martin Luther King, an effective victory over racial struggles, and the adoption of laws and methods of coexistence more in conformity with modern civilization and Christian brotherhood. Weeping and yet hoping, we pray that it may indeed be so.