ROME – Speaking to American viewers during his weekly general audience, Pope Francis Wednesday prayed for the repose of the soul of George Floyd and condemned racism, saying that turning a “blind eye” to the problem is intolerable.
“Dear brothers and sisters in 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,” the pope said during his June 3 audience, which was livestreamed from the library of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.
Floyd, an African American, died Monday in Minneapolis after police officers arrested him and pinned him to the ground after he was accused of attempting to buy cigarettes with a counterfeit bill, kneeling on his back and neck for nearly 10 minutes.
Officers initially argued that Floyd, 46, had resisted arrest, yet video footage of the incident that has since gone viral contradicts that claim, showing Floyd pinned to the ground, saying, “I can’t breathe,” with officers ignoring his pleas and those of onlookers.
On Friday it was announced that the white officer who pinned Floyd to the ground for 8 minutes and 46 seconds had been charged with third degree murder and manslaughter. Three other officers involved in the incident have been fired, and an investigation is pending.
Floyd’s death sparked protests throughout the nation, and beyond, with several major cities in the United States, Europe and South America joining in. Some have turned violent, with protesters setting cars on fire and looting stores.
In his general audience, Pope Francis insisted that “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,” he said, adding, “Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost.”
“Today I join the Church in Saint Paul and Minneapolis, and in the entire United States, 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 said, offering his prayers that grieving friends and families be consoled.
“Let us implore the national reconciliation and peace for which we yearn,” he said, praying that Our Lady of Guadalupe, “Mother of America,” intercede for “all those who work for peace and justice in your land and throughout the world.”
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