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Minnesota bishops call for prayer and civility before jury finds Derek Chauvin guilty

George Floyd Tverdokhlib/Shutterstock

Minnesota bishops called for prayer and civility shortly before a jury on Tuesday found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder and manslaughter charges in the killing of George Floyd.

After deliberating on Monday evening and Tuesday, the jury determined that Chauvin was guilty on three charges 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 Saint 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.”

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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, a former Minneapolis police officer, was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter for 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. Towards 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.

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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 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,” Bishop Fisher said.

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

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