As Derek Chauvin Is Found Guilty, Minnesota Bishops Call for Prayer and Civility

The state’s bishops released a statement on Tuesday afternoon before the verdict was announced, asking for civility, prayer and justice, and calling for an end to racism.

People react after the verdict is read in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin outside Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis April 20. Chauvin, who knelt on George Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes last May, was convicted of second-degree murder.
People react after the verdict is read in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin outside Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis April 20. Chauvin, who knelt on George Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes last May, was convicted of second-degree murder. (photo: Bloomberg / Getty)

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota bishops called for prayer and civility just before a jury on Tuesday found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on three charges in the killing of George Floyd. 

After deliberating on Monday evening and Tuesday, the jury determined that Chauvin was guilty of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin's trial began on March 8.

The state’s bishops released a statement on Tuesday afternoon before the verdict was announced, asking for civility, prayer and justice, and calling for an end to racism.

“The Catholic Church in Minnesota invites all people of faith to come together to speak with one another in a civil and charitable manner. Let us pray with one another and for one another,” read a statement by Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the bishops of the five other dioceses in the state.

“Let us respect one another as children of God, created in his image. Let us collectively confess the truth and recognize that we urgently need each other now to get out of these cycles of fear and violence,” the bishops stated. “There are no victims and no oppressors in the Kingdom of God. For our children’s sake, let us embrace our true identity, without waiting another day.”

“There is far too much evidence that prejudice has an impact in criminal-justice matters, influencing not only the way individuals are treated by some police and court systems but also the rates of incarceration. Whatever the verdict may be in the Chauvin trial, the Church remains committed to providing long-term leadership in eradicating structures of sin and racism in Minnesota and beyond.”

Chauvin was charged in the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, on May 25, 2020; Chauvin restrained Floyd and held him in custody.

Video footage from bystanders showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd audibly gasped, moaned and complained he could not breathe. Toward the end of the video, Floyd appeared unconscious. After an ambulance arrived and transported Floyd to a nearby hospital, he was pronounced dead.

Chauvin was arrested on May 29 and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Prosecutors later upgraded the charges to second-degree unintentional murder. The four officers who were involved in the attempted arrest, including Chauvin, were eventually fired by the Minneapolis Police Department.

After Floyd's death, widespread protests, rallies and riots ensued throughout the country and the world, highlighting police brutality and racism. Pope Francis on June 3 prayed for Floyd’s soul and asked for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe for peace and justice.

 “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life. At the same time, we have to recognize that the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence, and so much is lost,” the Pope said amid widespread protests and riots in the United States.

The state’s bishops cited the U.S. bishops’ 2018 pastoral letter on racism, as they called for Catholics to work for peace and justice.

“As the U.S. bishops noted in a 2018 pastoral letter on racism, ‘Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love,’ it is a sad and undeniable truth that racial prejudice and discrimination continue to impact the lives and livelihoods of millions of U.S. citizens,” the bishops stated.

“There is far too much evidence that prejudice has an impact in criminal-justice matters, influencing not only the way individuals are treated by some police and court systems but also the rates of incarceration,” they said.

Bishop Michael Fisher of Buffalo, New York, also issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon, after the jury’s verdict was announced: “Today’s verdict of accountability in the tragic killing of George Floyd is an important step in healing the deep wounds of racial tension caused by his senseless killing.” 

This story was updated on April 20 to include new information.

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