ST. PAUL, Minn. — Soon after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder by a jury on April 20, U.S. bishops issued statements emphasizing respect for life, peace and justice.
Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis said that Jesus calls people, through their “shared brotherhood,” to “a deeper respect for all human life.”
“May the many reminders of the Lord’s loving closeness even in challenging times inspire us to treat each other with unfailing respect, to work nonviolently for the common good and to be instruments of reconciliation,” he added.
Chauvin was found guilty by a jury that deliberated for more than 10 hours over two days of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd, an African American., in the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd.
The incident, captured on a bystanders’ video that went viral, sparked protests and riots across the Twin Cities, the nation and parts of the world.
Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski of St. Louis issued a statement on the verdict April 20. “We acknowledge that the verdict in this trial does not erase the pain we have all felt as we witnessed someone needlessly die in such an inhumane manner. It also does not eradicate the sin of racism in our community, nation and world. The murder of George Floyd is only one example of the effects of this sin. If we do not continue taking peaceful action to end racism, we can only expect to see more of these tragic effects that hurt all of humanity.”
“We all need to continue to work together — civil and religious leaders, families, activists, young and old — to continue to fight for equal and just treatment of all of our brothers and sisters,” Archbishop Rozanski added. “Let us do so with prayer, in peace, and with the hope that we have in Jesus Christ — that He will bring us to healing.”
In an April 21 statement, Washington Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory said he echoed Archbishop Hebda’s call for “peace and nonviolence in all of our communities.” He also urged people to renew their commitment to respect each other and remember their shared humanity.
Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori said the “just verdict” should “spur us on in the peaceful but persistent struggle for racial justice, for genuine police reform and toward the creation of peaceful cities and neighborhoods.”
Floyd, 46, died while being arrested when a store clerk accused him of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill; he had been pinned to the ground for more than nine minutes by Chauvin and several other police officers. He repeatedly told the officers that he could not breathe. Chauvin’s defense attorney pointed to Floyd’s drug use and health issues as possibly contributing to his death.
Judge Peter Cahill, the trial’s judge, has yet to sentence Chauvin, 45; sentencing is expected to take place in eight weeks. After the verdict was read in the courtroom, Cahill revoked Chauvin’s bail and he was remanded into the custody of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.
After court officials announced that a verdict had been reached, people gathered in Minneapolis outside the Hennepin County Government Center, which includes the courtroom where the 11-day trial was held, as well as George Floyd Square, the site of Floyd’s death. As the verdict was announced, the crowd’s initial reaction was celebratory.
Since Floyd’s death, Archbishop Hebda has been encouraging the faithful of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to join him in prayers for peace and justice.
Even before the trial began, religious and civic leaders were calling for a peaceful response to the trial and its verdict following violence and riots that erupted during protests following Floyd’s death last year on Memorial Day.
On the weekend before the trial began, the archbishop shared prayer with other faith leaders in front of the Hennepin County Government Center. As closing arguments were scheduled to begin, the archbishop held a special Mass “For the Preservation of Peace and Justice” at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, and he urged all priests of the archdiocese to celebrate that special Mass on the same day.
At the April 19 Mass, the archbishop in his homily noted that the issues of racism, peace and justice were larger than one person can solve, but that did not mean people should do nothing.
“We can’t single-handedly force healing to those who feel the wounds of racism in our land,” the archbishop said. “We can’t bring George Floyd back to life, or Daunte Wright back to life. Does that mean we do nothing? Absolutely not.”