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Statement of U.S. Bishop Chairmen in Wake of Death of George Floyd and National Protests

WASHINGTON – Seven U.S. bishop chairmen of committees within the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have issued a statement in the wake of the death of Mr. George Floyd and the protests which have broken out in Minneapolis and in other cities in the United States.

Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism; Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez of Philadelphia, chairman of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church; Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, chairman of the Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Bishop David G. O’Connell, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, chairman of the Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development; and Bishop Joseph N. Perry, auxiliary bishop of Chicago, chairman of the Subcommittee on African American Affairs have issued the following statement:

We are broken-hearted, sickened, and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes. What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences. This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion.

Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied about when convenient. It is a real and present danger that must be met head-on. As members of the Church, we must stand for the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference. We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life. We serve a God of love, mercy, and justice.

MINNESOTA RIOTS
MINNESOTA RIOTS

MINNESOTA RIOTS

A man in Minneapolis is seen near National Guard members May 29, 2020, guarding the area in the aftermath of a protest over the death of George Floyd, an African American, while in the custody of a white police officer. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters) See FLOYD-FABRE May 29, 2020.

MINNESOTA RIOTS
MINNESOTA RIOTS

MINNESOTA RIOTS

Rachel Perez of Minneapolis is pictured May 28, 2020, with injuries sustained from rubber bullets during protests while standing a distance from a burning vehicle at the parking lot of a Target store. Demonstrations continue after a white police officer was caught on a bystander's video May 25 pressing his knee into the neck of George Floyd, an African American, who later died at a hospital. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters)

MINNESOTA RIOTS
MINNESOTA RIOTS

MINNESOTA RIOTS

Protesters in Minneapolis set fire to the entrance of a police station May 28, 2020, as demonstrations continue after a white police officer was caught on a bystander's video pressing his knee into the neck of George Floyd, an African American, who later died at a hospital. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters)

MINNESOTA POLICE RIOTS
MINNESOTA POLICE RIOTS

MINNESOTA POLICE RIOTS

Police in Minneapolis spray mace at protesters to break up a gathering near the Minneapolis Police Third Precinct May 27, 2020. Two days earlier George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was pinned down by a police officer kneeling on his neck before later dying in the hospital May 25. (CNS photo/Eric Miller, Reuters) See MINNEAPOLIS-FLOYD May 28, 2020.

MINNESOTA RIOTS
MINNESOTA RIOTS

MINNESOTA RIOTS

Protesters in Minneapolis gather around the entrance of a police station May 28, 2020, as demonstrations continue after a white police officer was caught on a bystander's video pressing his knee into the neck of George Floyd, an African American, who later died at a hospital. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters)

MINNESOTA POLICE RIOTS
MINNESOTA POLICE RIOTS

MINNESOTA POLICE RIOTS

A man in Minneapolis is injured after being hit in the head by an object at a protest near the Minneapolis Police Third Precinct May 27. Two days earlier George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was pinned down by a police officer kneeling on his neck before later dying in the hospital May 25. (CNS photo/Eric Miller, Reuters)

While it is expected that we will plead for peaceful non-violent protests, and we certainly do, we also stand in passionate support of communities that are understandably outraged. Too many communities around this country feel their voices are not being heard, their complaints about racist treatment are unheeded, and we are not doing enough to point out that this deadly treatment is antithetical to the Gospel of Life.

As we said eighteen months ago in our most recent pastoral letter against racism, Open Wide Our Hearts, for people of color some interactions with police can be fraught with fear and even danger. People of good conscience must never turn a blind eye when citizens are being deprived of their human dignity and even their lives. Indifference is not an option. “As bishops, we unequivocally state that racism is a life issue.”

We join Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis in praying for the repose of the soul of Mr. George Floyd and all others who have lost their lives in a similar manner. We plead for an end to the violence in the wake of this tragedy and for the victims of the rioting. We pray for comfort for grieving families and friends. We pray for peace across the United States, particularly in Minnesota, while the legal process moves forward. We also anticipate a full investigation that results in rightful accountability and actual justice.

We join our brother bishops to challenge everyone to come together, particularly with those who are from different cultural backgrounds. In this encounter, let us all seek greater understanding amongst God’s people. So many people who historically have been disenfranchised continue to experience sadness and pain, yet they endeavor to persevere and remain people of great faith. We encourage our pastors to encounter and more authentically accompany them, listen to their stories, and learn from them, finding substantive ways to enact systemic change. Such encounters will start to bring about the needed transformation of our understanding of true life, charity, and justice in the United States. Hopefully, then there will be many voices speaking out and seeking healing against the evil of racism in our land.

As we anticipate the Solemnity of Pentecost this weekend, we call upon all Catholics to pray and work toward a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray for a supernatural desire to rid ourselves of the harm that bias and prejudice cause. We call upon Catholics to pray to the Holy Spirit for the Spirit of Truth to touch the hearts of all in the United States and to come down upon our criminal justice and law enforcement systems. Finally, let each and every Catholic, regardless of their ethnicity, beg God to heal our deeply broken view of each other, as well as our deeply broken society.

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