ROME – After pro-Trump protestors contesting the results of the US presidential election stormed the nation’s Capitol Building yesterday, a fiasco that left four people dead, Catholic leaders from across the world have condemned the violence, urging peace and respect for democracy.
Though no collective statement was released, several Australian bishops commented on the chaos through their Twitter accounts.
In a Jan. 6 tweet, Australian Archbishop Mark Coledridge of Brisbane and president of the Australian bishops’ conference said, “I didn’t realize just how much the integrity of and respect for the democratic institutions of the US matter to the rest of the world until this pandemonium erupted in DC. From the other side of the world, I find myself shaken and disbelieving.”
Similarly, Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne in a tweet said he would offer “a prayer for the people and nation of the USA, from the Liturgy of the Hours for this morning (OZ time), which will be prayed by them tomorrow.”
He then quoted a line from Psalm 79 that read, “God of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us, and we shall be saved.”
Bishop Richard Umbers, an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Sydney, said in a tweet, “In this regard, all those attitudes that encourage in citizens an inadequate or incorrect practice of participation or that cause widespread disaffection with everything connected with the sphere of social and political life are a source of concern and deserve careful consideration.”
Though they made no direct reference to yesterday’s protests, the Irish bishops’ conference sent a tweet Jan. 7 saying: “Thought for the Day for Thursday. #peace” which included a graphic quoting Pope Francis that said, “Christians promote peace, starting with the community in which they live.”
Bishop Tim Harris of Townsville, Australia, said in a tweet that “As I watch from a distance I pray for healing in the US. A deeply disturbing time for our friends and for all people of goodwill.”
Vatican News, the official news site for the Holy See, reported the statements from US bishops, but so far no statement has been made by either Pope Francis or the Italian bishops.
However, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby sent his own tweet Jan. 6 saying, “There will be many lessons to be learned from the scenes in Washington. For the moment let us pray for the USA, the world’s greatest defender of democracy until now, as it faces this huge shock. May God bless America with peace and reconciliation.”
Various international heads of state have also weighed in on the drama.
As events were unfolding Jan. 6, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent a tweet saying he was witnessing “Disgraceful scenes in U.S. Congress. The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.”
French President Emmanuel Macron published a brief video in French and English on his twitter account, saying in English at the end that “I just wanted to express our friendship and our faith in the United States.”
“What happened today in Washington DC is not America, definitely,” he said, adding, “We believe in the strength of our democracy, we believe in the strength of American democracy.”
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen also took to Twitter to voice her support for US president-elect Joe Biden, saying, “I believe in the strength of US institutions and democracy. Peaceful transition of power is at the core. @JoeBiden won the election. I look forward to working with him as the next President of the USA.”
Speaking to the US political situation, Comboni missionary Father Giulio Albanese in an interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa said, “The unprecedented gravity of what happened in Washington on the stage of history demonstrates how right Pope Francis is from start to finish in his recent encyclical Fratelli Tutti,” which condemned nationalist populism, urged a complete rethinking of global politics and appealed for a return to universal brotherhood.”
A known figure in Italy who serves as an advisor to the Italian bishops on charity and who runs magazines for the Pontifical Missionary Society, which is connected to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Albanese had strong words for what he believes is the deterioration of democratic values in the United States.
Calling US President Donald Trump’s actions “blasphemy,” Albanese said he “follows the demonic logic of the dividing wall, and what is happening in the United States is the metaphor of the globalization of indifference of which Pope Francis relentlessly warns us.”
“People like Trump go against the rules of democracy and deny universal brotherhood at its root,” he said, insisting that Christianity itself is centered on relationship, “not on the oppression and exclusion of the other.”
Referring to the fact that many US bishops showed support for Trump, Albanese said that with yesterday’s events in Washington, he would be surprised “if there are still any US bishops willing to deny Biden the sacrosanct right of receiving communion.”
Trump has always painted himself as a defender of life, he said, but called the sincerity of this sentiment into question, saying Trump’s is “a theocratic conception that exploits religion for subversive purposes.”
“The unworthy spectacle of these hours is a striking confirmation and also a lesion for the Catholic world,” he said, adding, “We are witnessing the result of sovereignty based on a culture that is rejecting and contrary to universal brotherhood” on a variety of issues, such as immigration.
Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen