Pope Francis called the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference on yesterday to convey his prayers and solidarity for Americans during the period of national unrest that began with the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed May 25 during an arrest by Minneapolis police.
“The Holy Father said he was praying, especially for Archbishop Bernard Hebda and the local Church in Minneapolis-St. Paul,” Archbishop Jose Gomez wrote in a June 3 letter to bishops obtained by CNA.
“He thanked the bishops for the pastoral tone of the Church’s response to the demonstrations across the country in our statements and actions since the death of George Floyd. He assured us of his continued prayers and closeness in the days and weeks ahead,” Gomez added.
On May 25, Floyd was arrested for attempting to use a counterfeit $20 bill. Footage of the incident circulated widely on the internet. It showed Floyd subdued and laying on his stomach, saying repeatedly, “I cannot breathe” and groaning as a police officer knelt on his neck for almost eight minutes, while other officers stood nearby and watched.
Floyd was taken to a local hospital, where he died shortly later. His death has spurred widespread protests, and looting and riots in numerous cities. President Donald Trump sparked controversy Monday when he said he would deploy federal troops to quell riots if state governors did not mobilize the National Guard.
Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on May 29. The officers present at Floyd’s arrest were fired from the Minneapolis police force. On June 3, Minnesota’s attorney general announced that Chauvin will be charged with second-degree murder, and the other officers charged with aiding and abetting.
U.S. bishops in numerous states have since expressed their support for protestors, prayed for healing, called for police reform, and decried racism.
On May 29, several members of the U.S. bishops’ conference said they were “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,” they said. “This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion.”
“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,” they said.
Archbishop Bernard Hebda offered Mass for Floyd’s soul on for his family May 27, has led or attended numerous prayer services, and marched June 2 with other area faith leaders to place where Floyd died, for a moment of prayer.
Gomez said that on behalf of the U.S. bishops, “I expressed our gratitude for his concern for the people of the United States,” and assured him that bishops are praying for him.
“In this challenging moment for our ministries and our country, I hope we can all take comfort and gain strength from our Holy Father’s prayers and encouragement.”