As protests over the brutal death of George Floyd continued to rock the US, Pope Francis condemned racism in any form in a Wednesday address but also reminded his audience that violence is self-destructive.
In his greetings to the English-speaking faithful at his weekly general audience, the Pope specifically addressed the people of the United States.
“I have witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest in your nation in these past days, following the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd,” he said. “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.”
Francis cited a recent statement from Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), to denounce the violence that erupted at some of the protests.
“At the same time, we have to recognize that ‘the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost’,” he said.
Francis said he was joining the Church in Saint Paul and Minneapolis and throughout the entire US “in praying for the repose of the soul of George Floyd and of all those others who have lost their lives as a result of the sin of racism.”
He also asked Americans to implore God for “the national reconciliation and peace for which we yearn.”
The US has been facing violent protests since last week, when a video went viral showing Floyd being pinned down by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as he was being arrested.
Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Shortly after, Floyd appeared to lose consciousness, but Chauvin maintained his position on the victim. He died shortly after being taken to a hospital.
His last words were “I can’t breathe,” which became a slogan for nationwide protests.
An independent autopsy on Monday found that Floyd was killed by “asphyxiation from sustained pressure.”
US President Donald Trump is facing criticism from Christian leaders for having used religious symbols during public appearances and photo opportunities.
After a White House press conference on Monday, Trump made a surprise visit to the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church by walking to the church after police used tear gas and flash bangs to clear protesters away.
That was after the president sparked outrage for threatening to use the military to crack down on protests if state governors failed to contain street violence.