In the 2018 pastoral letter of the US bishops against racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts,” we stated that for people of color, “interactions with police are often fraught with fear and even danger.” How sadly prophetic that statement was in the case of George Floyd, killed by police last summer.
The Church affirms the dignity of all human life as given to us by God from conception until natural death. As two of my brother bishops stated yesterday, “[the] death of George Floyd highlighted and amplified the deep need to see the sacredness in all people, but especially those who have been historically oppressed. Whatever the stage of human life, it not only matters, it is sacred.” George Floyd’s life mattered.
While the dismantling of systemic racism is a long road, it begins with a conversion of heart that acknowledges the humanity of all persons, particularly those who are different from us. The US bishops note importantly that “[prayer] and working toward conversion must be our first response in the face of evil actions.”
The Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace states, “To overcome discrimination, a community must interiorize the values that inspire just laws and live out, in day-to-day life, the conviction of the equal dignity of all.” We are called to interiorize not only justice, but love for all as our brothers and sisters. Let us pray for the eternal repose of Mr. Floyd and for comfort for his family and loved ones. Let us pray for all who experience their human dignity violated by others. Let us pray, as well, for law enforcement officials that they will always carry out their duties with integrity, honor, and respect for human life. Let us pray that each of us may experience a conversion of heart leading to deeper love of all persons while working peacefully for justice.
– Most Reverend Oscar Cantú Bishop of San José
April 21, 2021