CHICAGO — Pope Francis said Tuesday said he shares the grief of Chicagoans who have lost loved ones to violence in Chicago.
In a letter to Archbishop Blase Cupich, Francis said the "people of Chicago have been on my mind and in my prayers."
"I know that many families have lost loved ones to violence," Francis wrote. "I am close to them, I share in their grief, and pray that they may experience healing and reconciliation through God's grace."
Cupich read the pope's letter at a news conference Tuesday morning where he announced his plan to lead a “walk for peace” through Englewood on April 14 to mark Good Friday, when the church recognizes the death of Jesus.
The walk will begin at St. Benedict the African Church, at 66th Street and Stewart Avenue. Participants will re-enact Jesus' journey to the cross and "pause along the way to remember those who lives were lost to violence," the archdiocese said.
The pope said he supported Cupich's effort to "promote a nonviolence as a way of life and a path to peace in Chicago."
"I will accompany you in prayer, as well as those who walk with you and who have suffered violence in the city."
For the first time since a surge of violence overtook Chicago in 2016, violent crime dropped in March.
There were 167 shootings that killed 32 people and wounded 174 this March, according to a DNAinfo analysis. It's a sharp contrast from what the city faced this month last year: 273 shootings with 45 people dead and 280 wounded.
Cupich said Tuesday he would renew the archdiocese's effort to break "the violence-causing cycle of despair, racism and poverty in the city."
“The causes of the violence we are seeing in our city are complex and deep seated, but I have a strong belief, based on the good will and the many dedicated efforts of our civic and religious leaders, that these causes can be addressed and the suffering can end if we all work together,” Cupich said. “Bolstered by the encouragement of the Holy Father, we are dedicated to creating a framework for peace building in our city.”
As part of that effort, the archdiocese will create the Peace Venture Philanthropy Fund, which will invest in new anti-violence approaches and expand promising programs.