Washington, DC, Archbishop Condemns Trump ‘Photo-Op’ at Pope John Paul Shrine

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visit the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, to lay a ceremonial wreath and observe a moment of remembrance under the Statue of Saint John Paul II on June 2, 2020 in Washington,DC. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by …
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, DC, Catholic Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory slammed President Trump’s “manipulation” of a Catholic shrine, saying it “violates our religious principles.”

In a statement released Tuesday, the archbishop said, “I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree.”

Trump and the first lady traveled across town Tuesday morning for a brief visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, located next to the Catholic University of America.

During their visit, the Trumps made no comments but posed for photos in front of a statue of Saint Pope John Paul II outside the shrine, where they stood in silence for several minutes, with their hands clasped in front of them.

In his comments, Gregory, the only black Catholic archbishop in the country, suggested that the visit was an affront to Pope John Paul, who would never have condoned Trump’s methods of quelling the violent protests that have arisen in U.S. cities.

“Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings,” the archbishop said. “His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth. He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.”

This is not the first time that Gregory has attacked Trump.

In August 2019, Gregory went after Trump by name, suggesting that comments he made against Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) were motivated by racism.

“I fear that recent public comments by our President and others and the responses they have generated, have deepened divisions and diminished our national life,” the archbishop declared, while expressing his “sadness and deep regret for the ways our Maryland neighbors in Baltimore have been denigrated in recent public attacks.”

Trump had called Cummings “a brutal bully” for “shouting and screaming at the great men & women of Border Patrol about conditions at the Southern Border, when actually his Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous.”

In his statement, Gregory underscored the racial aspect of the confrontation.

“Our faith teaches us that respect for people of every race, religion, gender, ethnicity and background are requirements of fundamental human dignity and basic decency. This include newcomers to our country, people who have differing political views and people who may be different from us,” he said.

“We all need to reject racism, disrespect or brutality in speech and action,” he said, adding that “racism occurs when we ignore the fundamental truth that, because all humans share a common origin, they are all brothers and sisters, all equally made in the image of God.”

“We must all take responsibility to reject language that ridicules, condemns, or vilifies another person because of their race, religion, gender, age, culture or ethnic background,” the archbishop said.

Curiously, nothing in Trump’s statements mentioned the race of Cummings, but apparently — in the archbishop’s opinion — the very fact of his being black should have made him immune to criticism.

“As an American, a Christian, a Catholic pastor, I pray that our President, other national leaders and all Americans will do all we can to respect the dignity of all God’s children and nothing to further divide our nation. The growing plague of offense and disrespect in speech and actions must end,” Gregory concluded.

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