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Bishops renew call for respect for life in wake of Chauvin verdict


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John Burger - published on 04/22/21

"Whatever the stage of human life, it not only matters; it is sacred," Catholic leaders state after jury convicts police officer who killed George Floyd.

Human lives not only matter; they are sacred.

So said two bishops who chair committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, following Tuesday’s guilty verdict in the killing of a black man in Minneapolis, George Floyd, by a white policeman, Derek Chauvin.

The jury found Chauvin guilty on murder and manslaughter charges. During a May 25, 2020, arrest in which Floyd resisted, the officer had pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for what authorities say was 9 1/2 minutes, including several minutes after his breathing had stopped and he had no pulse.

Following the April 20 jury verdict, Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, and Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development issued a statement in which they said, “As we receive this result, we recall that God is the source of all justice, love, and mercy. The death of George Floyd highlighted and amplified the deep need to see the sacredness in all people, but especially those who have been historically oppressed. Whatever the stage of human life, it not only matters, it is sacred.”

The bishops said that the nationwide street protests following Floyd’s death, including the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, highlighted the “urgent need for racial healing and reconciliation. As we have seen so plainly this past year, social injustices still exist in our country, and the nation remains deeply divided on how to right those wrongs.”

Bishop Fabre and Archbishop Coakley called on Catholics to pray that “through the revelation of so much pain and sadness, that God strengthens us to cleanse our land of the evil of racism which also manifests in ways that are hardly ever spoken, ways that never reach the headlines.”

“Let us then join in the hard work of peacefully rebuilding what hatred and frustration have torn down,” they urged. “This is the true call of a disciple and the real work of restorative justice. Let us not lose the opportunity to pray that the Holy Spirit falls like a flood on our land again, as at Pentecost, providing us with spiritual, emotional, and physical healing, as well as new ways to teach, preach, and model the Gospel message in how we treat each other.”

In Minnesota, Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, called the verdict “a sobering moment for our community.”

“It is our shared brotherhood with Jesus that calls us to a deeper respect for all human life,” Archbishop Hebda said in an April 20 statement. “We ask him to bring healing into our communities, comfort to the family of George Floyd and all who mourn, and satisfaction to those who thirst for justice. May the many reminders of the Lord’s loving closeness even in challenging times inspire us to treat each other with unfailing respect, to work non-violently for the common good and to be instruments of reconciliation.”

In an April 21 statement, Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, D.C., said he echoed Hebda’s call for peace and nonviolence. He urged people to renew their commitment to respect each other and remember their shared humanity.

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