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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - George Floyd's death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer has been met with condemnations of racism by various religious leaders, as well as demonization of President Trump.
On Tuesday, the president and First Lady Melania Trump, a Catholic, visited the St. John Paul II National Shrine in northeast Washington. The couple prayed on their knees before an icon mosaic of the Lamb of God. Next to it was an icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, to whom Pope John Paul II was devoted.
Just before Trump's arrival, Washington archbishop Wilton Gregory raised eyebrows by condemning the visit, saying in a statement, "I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people, even those with whom we might disagree."
Alluding to the president's appearance at St. John's Episcopal Church on Monday, Gregory added that Pope St. John Paul II was a defender of human rights and condemned police for their "use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate [protesters] for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace."
Gregory's comments followed earlier instances of prelates pandering to the Left, including declarations by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic pacifist group Pax Christi that "systemic racism" is the root cause of police killings of black Americans.
The Mexico-born Gomez wrote that Floyd's killing was "senseless and brutal" and a "sin that cries out to heaven for justice." He asked: "How is it possible that in America, a black man's life can be taken from him while calls for help are not answered, and his killing is recorded as it happens?" Gómez said that he is praying for Floyd and his family, adding that he shares the outrage on the part of the "black community and those who stand with them in Minneapolis, Los Angeles and across the country."
While calling for an investigation, Gomez declared:
We should all understand that the protests we are seeing in our cities reflect the justified frustration and anger of millions of our brothers and sisters who even today experience humiliation, indignity and unequal opportunity, only because of their race or the color of their skin. It should not be this way in America. Racism has been tolerated for far too long in our way of life.
The archbishop said that Americans "should not fail to hear what people are saying through their pain. We need to finally root out the racial injustice that still infects too many areas of American society."
Gomez admitted that the recent violence is "self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost. Let us keep our eyes on the prize of true and lasting change," and added that legitimate protest should not be "exploited by persons who have different values and agendas."
"Burning and looting communities, ruining the livelihoods of our neighbors," he said, "does not advance the cause of racial equality and human dignity."
Gomez called on Americans to "honor the sacrifice" of Floyd's life by "removing racism and hate from our hearts" so that the United States can be "a beloved community of life, liberty and equality for all."
His statement did not include any mention of God, Jesus or Holy Scripture.
Despite some acknowledgment by Catholic leaders that righteous outrage over extra-judicial killings of black people should not be marred by violence, there was little mention of the leftist political cast of the rioting.
Catholic pacifist group Pax Christi called on members of the Catholic Church at "every level" to "speak out boldly and unequivocally against the sin of racism, including the plague of police brutality aimed at George Floyd in Minneapolis this week."
The organization said that the Catholic Church has historically supported slavery and segregation and that racism "penetrates every aspect of life in the United States, seeding the terror that threatens communities of color and disfigures all our humanity."
Pax Christi suggested that white Catholics enjoy "privilege" and are "afforded a safe distance from the despair and agony" experienced by "communities of color ... in moments like this." It concluded, "Those who seek to keep the system intact for their own power rely on white people remaining silent and separated from movements for justice." The group's statement called on Catholics to defeat "systemic and institutional racism" and engage in the "discomfort" of conversations "especially for white people."
In a statement on June 1, Pax Christi National Chair Bob Shine said there should be no judgment of the protests, but instead on "what has happened to people of color in this country over and over and over again, and in a particular way on anti-blackness."
"Our focus, and I speak here in a special way to white folks like myself, is that all of us should do all we can to stop these crimes from ever happening again," said Shine. "The focus should be on justice for those who have been killed."
Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas joined other clerics to kneel in prayer as a public demonstration of solidarity. On the diocesan Facebook page, a video showed that Bp. Seitz and other clergy kneeled to pray in memory of George Floyd at Memorial Park in the border city.