Trump angers US bishops

As President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visited a shrine to Saint John Paul II on Tuesday, Archbishop Wilton Gregory rebuked those who organised the visit.

Gregory said arranging for Trump to visit the shrine was “baffling and reprehensible.” He is outraged at what he called a politicised photo opportunity.

Protesters from a number of Catholic social advocacy groups greeted Trump as he arrived at the shrine.

Cardinal Blase Cupich defended the protesters, saying “if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. What did we expect when we learned … the price of a black life is a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill?”

During the past week the US has devolved into widespread unrest after police killed an unarmed black man, George Floyd.

A police officer involved in the killing has been sacked and arrested and charged with murder and manslaughter.

Gregory says he is outraged 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.

“Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings,” said Gregory, who is Washington’s first African American archbishop.

“His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth. He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.”

Gregory called out the sin of racism while encouraging nonviolent protests as a means of resistance.

“We, as a society, must find ways to understand and to respond to the pain of our brothers and sisters. We see racism destroying the lives of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian people … [it] triggers the divisive and xenophobic attitudes of nationalism.”

“We must non-violently and constructively work together to heal and build the ‘Beloved Community’ …” he added.

A statement from the Shrine (which is a Knights of Columbus initiative) defended Trump’s visit saying he had originally intended to sign an executive order on religious liberty while he was there.

“This was fitting given Saint John Paul II was a tireless advocate for religious liberty throughout his pontificate.”

“International religious freedom receives widespread bipartisan support, including unanimous passage of legislation in defense of persecuted Christians and religious minorities around the world.”

Trump’s visit to the shrine came less than twenty-four hours after police used tear gas to dislodge protesters so Trump could visit St. John’s Episcopal Church across from the White House.

St. John’s rector, Rev. Gini Gerbasi, said on Facebook that she was shaken by the show of force for a photo opportunity.

“The patio of St. John’s… had been holy ground today … But that man turned it into a battleground first and a cheap political stunt second.”

After police removed the St John’s protesters, Trump posed in front of St John’s church holding a Bible.


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