By Vatican News
“We are broken-hearted, sickened, and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes”, writes a group of US Bishops in a statement released on Friday, following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis (USA) and the subsequent unrest that has broken out across the country.
Floyd was killed by a police officer on Monday when he was arrested for allegedly attempting to use a counterfeit banknote. Video recorded by witnesses showed the officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost 9 minutes, despite the victim being handcuffed and restrained.
The killing has led to widespread protests across the United States. Initially peaceful demonstrations later became violent in some places. In the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area, a police station was vandalized and many stores and business were damaged on Thursday as a riot broke out. Protests against police violence against minorities have taken place in numerous cities throughout the country.
Friday's statement by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) was signed by the Bishop chairmen of seven committees of the Conference, including the committees on racism, pro-life activities, and African American affairs.
In their statement, the bishops insist, “Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied when it is convenient. It is a real and present danger that must be met head on”.
While pleading for “peaceful non-violent protests”, the bishops say they also “stand in passionate support of communities that are understandably outraged”.
The Bishops offer their prayers for the soul of George Floyd “and all others who have lost their lives in a similar manner”, and “for comfort for grieving families and friends”. They also plead “for an end to the violence in the wake of this tragedy” while expressing their hope that a full investigation will result “in rightful accountability and actual justice”.
“Racism is a life issue”
Recalling the bishops’ most recent pastoral letter against racism, the bishops say “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”. And they forcefully repeat, “As bishops, we unequivocally state that racism is a life issue”.
On the eve of the Solemnity of Pentecost, the bishops call on all Catholics to pray for “a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit”, and for “a supernatural desire to rid ourselves of the harm that bias and prejudice cause”. They also call for prayers “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, the bishops call “on each and every Catholic, regardless of their ethnicity, to beg God to heal our deeply broken view of each other, as well as our deeply broken society”.