Christ can overcome racism, Minnesota priest says at George Floyd prayer service
by Christine Rousselle
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 29, 2020 / 08:00 pm MT (CNA).- The love of Christ can overcome the sin of racism, the pastor of a historic Minnesota African-American parish said Friday, at a prayer service in the aftermath of the protests and riots in St. Paul and Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd in police custody.
“Racism,” said Fr. Erich Rutten said, “is a very deep sin in our souls. In not only our personal souls, but in the soul of our country.”
“To get past it, we need the love of Christ,” he said. “We need to get out of our comfort zones and encounter one another. Pope Francis says so often that we need to truly encounter one another.”
Rutten, pastor of St. Peter Claver Church, led the service on Friday evening, hours after buildings in the parish neighborhood were set ablaze. The prayer service was also attended by Archbishop Bernard Hebda and auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens of St. Paul-Minneapolis.
Because of coronavirus social distancing measures, parishioners attended the prayer service via a Facebook livestream.
St. Peter Claver Church was founded in 1888 as the first African-American Roman Catholic parish in Minnesota.
Rutten read the Gospel passage in which Jesus repeatedly asks Peter if he loves Him and then instructs Peter to feed His sheep.
The priest then preached about the nature of love, the sin of racism, and a need for justice in the world.
In the Gospel, said Rutten, Jesus asks those to love him and to commit to him, and “that the love of God the Father might include all in everything.”
And while people may say that they do desire to love everyone, this is often easier said than done, Rutten added.
“When we think about it in the abstract, sure, we want to love everybody,” said Rutten. “But it’s a little bit harder with family, it’s a little bit harder with our fellow parishioners. It’s even harder with people that we don’t know very well, or people that maybe are different than us, or people that might even frighten us.”
Rutten offered prayers for justice and peace, “because there can be no peace without justice.” To achieve these goals, Rutten said that he thinks “we need to be very humble, we need to be very generous, and we need to seek true reconciliation: restorative justice.”
This Sunday, Pentecost, the world needs “a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” said Rutten.
“Amidst our noisy lives, our noisy world, and especially the energy of the last couple of days, we pray for racial justice and peace,” he added.
Cozzens prayed “Wake Me Up Lord,” a prayer against racism that was published in the 1989 USCCB message “For The Love of One Another.”
At the close of the evening’s service, Hebda spoke of his “great fondness” for the parish of St. Peter Claver, and noted that the church has a unique and important role for the Catholic Church in the Twin Cities in raising awareness of racism and how the Church could be more welcoming.
“I’ve heard more than once in these walls that it can be ‘exhausting’ to teach the rest of the Church about racism, and I’m grateful for your patience and perseverance,” he said.
“We continue to learn from you and your deep prayer. So please, know of my great gratitude, and that of Bishop Cozzens as well, for all that you do,” said Hebda.