Pope Francis wrote a letter to Chicagoans Tuesday saying he is keeping the people of the city "in my mind and in my prayers" as families continue to lose loved ones to continued violence.
In his letter, which Francis addressed to Cardinal Blase Cupich asking him to share the message with the city, Francis wrote, "I know 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," the letter read.
On the 49th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, the Pope exhorted Chicago's youth to follow the example set by the civil rights leader, "to respond to Dr. King's prophetic words and know that a culture of nonviolence is not an unattainable dream, but a path that has produced decisive results."
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"The consistent practice of nonviolence has broken barriers, bound wounds, healed nations—and it can heal Chicago," he wrote.
Francis pledged his support to local leaders who "promote nonviolence as a way of life and a path to peace in Chicago."
Cardinal Blasé Cupich, who has just returned from Rome, where he met personally with Pope Francis, read the pontiff's letter during an event announcing new peace initiatives by the Chicago Archdiocese. The initiatives aim to fight Chicago's violence and increase awareness on what's being done to address causes of poverty.
Tuesday's announcement took place at the Peace Corner Youth Center on the city's West Side, where Cupich said an evaluation of all of the church's current programs had been completed. He's looking to identify partnerships as they hope to expand presence on the West Side.
Cupich will donate $250,000 from his discretionary fund to a Peace Philanthropy Fund as a start, or "seed money for local initiatives, overlooked by larger programs."
The cardinal also announced on Good Friday he will lead a peace walk through the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side. As Cupich calls it, he will lead a "public witness" in one of the city's most dangerous neighborhoods.
Francis wrote to Cupich that while he won't be attending the walk, the city will be in his thoughts.
"As I make my own Way of the Cross in Rome that day, I will accompany you in prayer, as well as all those who walk with you and who have suffered violence in the city," Francis wrote in his letter.
He, in turn, asked for prayers as well.
"I pray the people of your beautiful city never lose hope, that they work together to become builders of peace, showing future generations the true power of love," he wrote. "I ask you to pray for me too."