Religious Leaders Across the World Are Reacting to The Killing of George Floyd

Monica Chon
Photo credit: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS - Getty Images
Photo credit: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS - Getty Images

From Oprah Magazine

  • Amid mass protests surrounding the death of George Floyd, religious leaders across the nation—and even internationally—have released statements.

  • Some prominent bishops, including the Catholic Archbishop of D.C. as well as the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, have expressed their frustration and outrage at President Trump's leadership in this difficult moment.

In times of difficulty, pain and anguish, many Americans have turned to their faith to find guidance, solace and words of wisdom. Given the mass protests to demand arrests of the officers who killed George Floyd, an unarmed Black man in Minnesota, many religious leaders have been releasing statements expressing their sorrow over his death, calling for prayers and support of the Back Lives Matter movement.

In some cases, their actions have gone even further. After President Trump ordered the use of tear gas to disperse a group of peaceful protestors outside the White House so he could take a photo in front of the St. John’s Episcopal Church—as well as a second religious visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine—the country's top Catholic and Episcopalian Bishops have issued rare condemnations of the President.

Below, see their reactions, as well as the statements from many religious leaders after over a week of civil unrest calling for justice after Floyd's death.

Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory:

“I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people, even those with whom we might disagree," Gregory said in a statement. “Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth. He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.”

Michael Curry, The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church:

"This evening, the President of the United States stood in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, lifted up a bible, and had pictures of himself taken. In so doing, he used a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan political purposes," Bishop Curry wrote in a tweet storm. "This was done in a time of deep hurt and pain in our country, and his action did nothing to help us or to heal us."

Bishop Curry also later expounded on his thoughts on George Floyd's death in an op-ed for The Washington Post. "Our nation’s heart breaks right now because we have strayed far from the path of love. Because love does not look like one man’s knee on another man’s neck, crushing the God-given life out of him," he wrote. "This is callous disregard for the life of another human being, shown in the willingness to snuff it out brutally as the unarmed victim pleads for mercy."

Mariann Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington:

"Tonight President just used a Bible and a church of my diocese as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for. To do so, he sanctioned the use of tear gas by police officers in riot gear to clear the church yard," Budde wrote on Twitter. "We are followers of Jesus. In no way do we support the President’s incendiary response to a wounded, grieving nation. We stand with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd through the sacred act of peaceful protest."




Archbishop José H. Gomez, President of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

"I am praying for George Floyd and his loved ones, and on behalf of my brother bishops, I share the outrage of the black community and those who stand with them in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and across the country," said Archbishop Gomez. "The cruelty and violence he suffered does not reflect on the majority of good men and women in law enforcement, who carry out their duties with honor. We know that. And we trust that civil authorities will investigate his killing carefully and make sure those responsible are held accountable."

Commission of Religious Leaders:

Comprised of bishops, reverends, rabbis, imams, the Commission issued a statement noting: "We often speak of 'thoughts and prayers.' We will offer our many prayers of healing, but we need not only serious thoughts but also firm action as we work together with all members of our community to find that critical cure for human hatred."

Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York:

"We cannot remain silent after we watched the shattering video of a police officer keeping his knee on the neck of George Floyd who was crying out 'I can’t breathe.'" Cardinal Dolan tweeted. "I join with CORL [Commission of Religious Leaders] and all people of conscience to declare that all life is sacred."

Reverend Al Sharpton:

In an op-ed for NBC, Sharpton wrote: "George Floyd is no longer with us because even in the middle of a global pandemic, police brutality has not ceased."

Imam Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid

"We must, as a people, demand accountability of ourselves in our souls, and then of others," the imam wrote on Facebook, expressing his moral outrage over the death of George Floyd.And Muslims must be in the mix if not the vanguard - leading by example either way.

Rabbi Angela W. Buchdahl of Central Synagogue, NYC:

"The work of fighting racism cannot be left only to the Black community, just as we know that antisemitism cannot be fought only by Jews," Rabbi Buchdahl shared in a letter to the Central Synagogue community. "As we look at these recent turbulent days, we have to separate the violence and looting from the call for change echoing across the country. We must hear the groundswell of voices and listen to the pain and protest emanating from every corner of our beloved nation."

Archbishop Etienne, Archdiocese of Seattle:

In a statement titled A Call to Address Racism in our Hearts and Community, Archbishop Etienne wrote, "The killing of George Floyd in Minnesota on Monday, May 25, was very traumatic and appalling. I wish to acknowledge the anger, pain, and sadness this and other encounters between police officers and black men evoke not only in Minnesota, but throughout the country and in our own faith family as well."



Bishop Frank Caggiano, Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut:

"As the nation reels from the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the protests and rioting that have followed, we must once again confront the evil of systemic racism, bigotry, and discrimination in our country," Bishop Caggiano said in a statement.

Cardinal Sean, Archbishop of Boston:

"This is a time for honest dialogue," Cardinal Sean tweeted, sharing his fuller statement. "A time for our communities to address the injustices suffered by the African American community."

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York:

Even across the pond, religious leaders are taking note. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York in England issued a joint statement: "Recent events in the United States of America have once again drawn public attention to the ongoing evil of white supremacy. Systematic racism continues to cause incalculable harm across the world."

The Archbishop of Canterbury added on Twitter: "I pray that those of us who are white Christians repent of our own prejudices, and do the urgent work of becoming better allies to our brothers and sisters of colour."



For more stories like this, sign up for our newsletter.

You Might Also Like


More From