After death of George Floyd, Minnesota Catholics pray for justice
by JD Flynn
Denver Newsroom, May 29, 2020 / 03:55 pm MT (CNA).- While rioters and looters took to the streets and parts of Minneapolis burned, some Minnesota Catholics called for justice and unity after the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a police officer on Monday.
“I am saddened. I am sickened. I am angered. And I am tired. I am tired of such things happening again and again. ‘How long, O Lord,’ must we endure such things?” Fr. Erich Rutten, pastor of St. Peter Claver Parish in St. Paul, said in a YouTube message May 27, two days after Floyd was killed.
“The love of God, revealed in Jesus Christ, clearly shows us that we are all children of one God, and that we are all equally subjects of Christ our King, in the Kingdom of God our Father. We are all brothers and sisters.”
The parish is home to the largest African-American Catholic community in the Twin Cities. In 1888, it was the first Catholic Church founded by and for African-Americans living in Minnesota.
“Here is a case where white supremacy has cost someone their life. The misguided idea that white people can somehow push other people around, or that we own this country, or that we own Minneapolis, leads to terrible disrespect. Leads to poverty. Leads to, in this case, violence, and in many cases, violence,” Rutten added in his video.
“This particular case is so egregious,” Rutten told CNA Wednesday, “that it’s just maddening.”
“Our faith calls us way beyond racism, into a radical unity, in the Kingdom of God. A Kingdom we’re all brother and sisters. I mean truly: Really brothers and sisters,” Rutten added.
“There’s a great African-American hymn: ‘We’ve come this far by faith, leaning on his holy Word, he hasn’t failed us yet.’ It’s just enduring faith that God will always be with us through it.”
St. Peter Claver is located in a St. Paul neighborhood where buildings were damaged by looters on Thursday evening.
“It was a crazy night, with lots going on around here,” Rutten said in a video released Friday morning.
“Just feeling very badly for our community, for so much pain, and hoping we can find ways for healing, reconciliation and peace. I know that won’t be easy.”
The parish will livestream a prayer service Friday evening.
St. Peter Claver parishioners have also called for justice.
Estelle Jones, 75, leads the social justice committee at St. Peter Claver, and facilitates a parish support group for families of incarcerated men and women.
On Tuesday, she told CNA that “I am feeling…it’s very difficult to even want to talk about it.”
“Something has to stop, I hope. It’s sad, but I hope, and it’s too sad, that George Floyd’s death would wake up the community, and the United States of America, that we stop this violence and police brutality, and this racism.”
God made all of us. It’s hard to understand why black people and brown people are hated so much. I’m devastated.”
Jones said she watched in 2015 as police assaulted her own grandson, then in his mid-thirties, while at a traffic stop. She said her grandson “got out of his car, and, um, they— he didn’t resist them at all. In fact, he was standing with his hands in the air. The next thing we knew, they had thrown him on the ground and were tasing him.”
“We were there. My daughter, his mother, and me. This was one of the most horrible, horrific things to ever see happen to a loved one, and we were standing there.”
Jones said her grandson was hospitalized for his injuries.
“Watching what happened to George Floyd just brought back this whole situation to me. To just know what this family must be going through, what the community is going through….Something has to stop this.”
Jones said her social justice and social support work at her parish is part of her effort to help young people in the parish understand the struggle for civil rights, and an ongoing struggle for racial justice. But she says she can’t do that alone.
In his YouTube video, Rutten said the parishioners of St. Peter Claver are called to “agitate both in our Church and in our world for racial justice and peace and healing, and the reality that we truly are brothers and sisters.”
“Remembering George, we need to continue that mission,” Rutten said.
Jones said she hopes for justice in the case of George Floyd.
“To me, justice— I feel like everyone else. Too many black men have been murdered, and nothing has been done by the police.”
Jones mentioned the deaths of Phliando Castile, Treyvon Martin, and Eric Garner.
“Enough is enough. And with George Floyd- that is blatant killing somebody in front of the whole world. How can you do that and think you can get away with it? Justice should be them being prosecuted, and serving some prison time.”
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested May 29, and has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. He and the three other officers present at Floyd’s arrest were fired from the Minneapolis police force.
St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda offered a Mass for the soul of George Floyd and for his family May 27.
“The video of George Floyd in police custody Monday evening is gut wrenching and deeply disturbing. The sadness and pain are intense. Let us pray for comfort for his grieving family and friends, peace for a hurting community and prudence while the process moves forward. We need a full investigation that results in rightful accountability and veritable justice,” Hebda said in a May 27 statement.
“Particularly at this time when human fragility has been brought into focus by the Covid-19 pandemic, we are called to respect the worth and dignity of each individual, whether they be civilians in need of protection or law enforcement officers charged with providing that protection. All human life is sacred.”
“Please join our Catholic community in praying for George Floyd and his family, and working for that day when ‘love and truth will meet [and] justice and peace will kiss,’” Hebda added, quoting Psalm 85.
For her part, Estelle Jones told CNA she hopes Catholics across the country will pray for George Floyd.
She also said she hopes Catholics will remember that “God created us all as equals, and to recognize that we all should love each other no matter what the color of our skin is, our economic status, or anything that would make us seem different from anybody else. To accept us all as human beings. As God would want us to do.”