Vatican Prelate Calls Fences Around White House ‘Unacceptable’ at Vigil for George Floyd

People attend a vigil in memory of George Floyd at the Basilica of St. Mary, in Trastevere, Rome, Friday, June 5, 2020. RNS photo by Claire Giangravé

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — In Rome and at the Vatican, the death of George Floyd and the protests in the United States inspired anti-racism vigils and prayers over the weekend.

“Today is a day when the American community and not only that but the whole world should come together to seriously examine where as a world, as a people, we are all going,” said Cardinal Kevin Farrell, the head of the Vatican department for Family, Laity and Life, speaking to a group of reporters ahead of the vigil for George Floyd on Friday (June 5).

Floyd, a black man, died in police custody on May 25, and the viral video of his death has sparked protests and marches throughout the United States and the world to oppose systemic racism. In Rome, at the Basilica of St. Mary in Trastevere, the Catholic lay movement St. Egidio organized a vigil for Floyd with the participation of high-ranking Vatican prelates.

Farrell told reporters, including Religion News Service, that though many “know all the theory and can quote all the great speeches” regarding the plague of racism, few are willing to do what needs to be done.

“We are all the same human people and therefore I believe it’s very important that we stop all this division and we stop the rhetoric of hatred that exists sometimes in our speech,” he said.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell in Rome, Friday,
June 5, 2020. RNS photo by Claire

Farrell was the auxiliary bishop of Washington D.C. between 2001 and 2007 and voiced his dismay at the news that amid the mounting anti-racism protests, the White House has erected over a mile of security fencing.

“To see barricades around the White House is something I never experienced in all the years I lived in Washington. I don’t find that acceptable. I think it’s a terrible image for the United States to have,” he said, adding that the United States is “supposed to be the leader in tolerance.”

A large crowd gathered for the vigil while respecting health and safety measures, including the head of the Vatican department charged with safeguarding life, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, and foreign representatives to the Holy See.

The U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Callista Gingrich, and her husband and former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, also attended. The ambassador praised the organizers for the “beautiful service” in memory of Floyd and in support of the United States.

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Source: Religion News Service