Pope Francis called Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez this morning to “express his prayers and closeness to the Church and people of the United States in this moment of unrest” in the wake of the protests and unrest prompted by the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody May 25.
As president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Archbishop Gomez informed his brother bishops of the phone call in a June 3 memo, saying that the Holy Father assured Archbishop Gomez of his prayers for the U.S. bishops, and thanked them “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.”
“On behalf of the conference, I expressed our gratitude for his concern for the people of the United States,” Archbishop Gomez said in the message.
The pope said that he was praying in particular for “the local church in Minneapolis-St. Paul” and for Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.
“I told him that the bishops were united in praying for him and I thanked him for his prayers and strong words of support at the conclusion of this morning’s General Audience,” said Archbishop Gomez.
In remarks delivered from the Apostolic Library in the Vatican at the end of his weekly General Audience Wednesday morning, Pope Francis addressed the people of the United States, saying he’d “witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest in your nation in these past days, following the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd,” who died after a white police officer was seen on camera putting his knee on the 46-year-old black man’s neck for at least eight minutes before being declared dead.
“We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life. At the same time, we have to recognize that the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating,” said Francis, echoing the words of Archbishop Gomez in his May 31 statement. “Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost.”
Archbishop Gomez told the bishops that "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."
In his May 31 statement on behalf of the U.S. bishops and in his Angelus column titled "George Floyd and Us" written two days later, Archbishop Gomez called Floyd's death "senseless and brutal" and said the protests we are reminder of the need to "root out the racial injustice that still infects too many areas of American society."
"Burning and looting communities, ruining the livelihoods of our neighbors, does not advance the cause of racial equality and human dignity," wrote the Archbishop June 2. "In fact, violence and property damage only makes things worse for the poor and minorities living in urban neighborhoods."
"So," the archbishop continued, "we need to keep our protests peaceful and keep our eyes on the prize of true and lasting change."