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Pope Francis called El Paso bishop after prayerful demonstration

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CNA Staff, Jun 4, 2020 / 03:40 am MT (CNA).- Pope Francis on Wednesday called Bishop Mark Seitz of the Diocese of El Paso, Texas, after the bishop joined a demonstration against racial discrimination to pray for George Floyd.

Seitz told local news website El Paso Matters that he received the two- to three-minute call from Pope Francis on the morning of June 3.

They spoke in Spanish, Seitz said, noting that Francis “said he wanted to congratulate me.”

“I expressed to the Holy Father that I felt it was imperative to show our solidarity to those who are suffering,” the bishop added.

Floyd was killed May 25 during an arrest by Minneapolis police. He was arrested for attempting to use a counterfeit $20 bill. Footage of the incident circulated widely on the internet. It showed Floyd subdued and laying on his stomach, saying repeatedly, “I cannot breathe,” and groaning as a police officer knelt on his neck for almost eight minutes, while other officers stood nearby and watched.

Floyd was taken to a local hospital, where he died. His death has spurred widespread protests, which were followed by looting and riots in numerous cities.

Seitz was the first U.S. Catholic bishop to join the protests and demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality which spread across the country after Floyd’s death.

Along with a group of priests of his diocese, Seitz knelt for nine minutes of silent prayer in memory of Floyd June 1. The bishop held a sign reading “Black Lives Matter.”

The same day Pope Francis phoned Bishop Seitz, he also made a call to Los Angeles Archbishop José Gómez, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

Pope Francis called Gómez on Wednesday, June 3 to convey his prayers and solidarity for Americans during the period of national unrest.

“The Holy Father said he was praying, especially for Archbishop Bernard Hebda and the local Church in Minneapolis-St. Paul,” Gómez wrote in a June 3 letter to bishops obtained by CNA.

“He thanked the bishops for the pastoral tone of the Church’s response to the demonstrations across the country in our statements and actions since the death of George Floyd. He assured us of his continued prayers and closeness in the days and weeks ahead,” Gómez added.

Wednesday morning Pope Francis addressed U.S. Catholics via livestream during his weekly general audience.

The pope said he was praying for the soul of George Floyd and for all victims of racism. He also said nothing was gained by violence.

“Let us pray for the comfort of families and friends who are heartbroken, and pray for national reconciliation and the peace we yearn for,” he said.

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