By Vatican News
Archbishop Wilton Gregory, the Archbishop of Washington DC, has spoken out about the US President's visit to a Catholic Shrine on Tuesday, amid nationwide unrest sparked by the killing of an African-American man while in police custody.
In a statement released ahead of the US President’s visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, the city’s Catholic Archbishop said, “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.”
Archbishop Wilton Gregory has led the Archdiocese of Washington for just over a year. He released the statement following President Trump’s announcement that he would visit the Shrine on Tuesday, 2 June. His visit came amidst widespread demonstrations against the murder of George Floyd, an African-American man who suffocated to death as he was pinned down by police officers.
Trump’s visit also drew criticism from Catholics demonstrating near the adjacent Catholic University of America. Many of them prayed while holding signs reading “Our Church is Not a Photo Op” and “Black Lives Matter.”
A statement released by the Saint John Paul II National Shrine said the White House had scheduled the visit as an event for the President to sign an executive order on international religious freedom.
In his statement, Archbishop Gregory notes that “Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. 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.”
Visit to Episcopal Church
He was referring to the President’s visit to a church the day before, after a large group of peaceful protesters gathered in front of the White House were subjected to tear gas so that he could walk the short distance from the White House to Saint John’s Episcopal Church, where he posed with a Bible for a photograph.
That visit was condemned by the church’s clergy, who were gathered with the protesters, and the Episcopal bishop of Washington, who decried the use of the church as a prop.