According to the alumni association for Washington High School, her alma mater, Lightfoot is a member of the St. James AME Zion Church in her hometown of Massillon, Ohio, which is part of a Methodist ecclesial community. The same website identifies her as a founding trustee of Christ the King Jesuit High School, which serves underprivileged African-American community members on Chicago's west side. A spokesperson for the mayor confirmed she is Christian.
Lightfoot is the first openly gay mayor of Chicago, as well as the city’s first African-American woman to serve in that post. She is married to Amy Eshleman, with whom she has a daughter.
During a press conference after Thursday’s Mass, Lightfoot, viewed by some critics as being at odds with the police department as mayor, said she hoped her presence at the funeral would be seen as a “simple, but beautiful expression of solidarity and support for the French family.”
Under canon law, for a Protestant to be given Communion they must be unable to approach a minister of their own community; express their adhesion to the Catholic faith regarding the sacraments; and be properly disposed.
Proper disposition to receive Communion includes freedom from mortal sin and actual devotion, and it is dogma that the state of grace is necessary for the worthy reception of the Eucharist.
Outside the danger of death, in addition, the diocesan bishop or bishops’ conference must judge that there is a ‘grave necessity’ for the administration of Communion.
A 1972 Vatican document that guides the interpretation of the relevant canon foresees that cases of “grave necessity” allowing for the administration of Communion to Protestants would be such situations as imprisonment, persecution, and large-scale movements of population that result in non-Catholic Christians being “scattered in Catholic regions.”
And the ecumenical vademecum issued in 2020 by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity guided bishops in the discernment of ‘grave necessity,’ stating that, “Sacraments may never be shared out of mere politeness. Prudence must be exercised to avoid causing confusion or giving scandal to the faithful.”
The Communion episode came during a crowded and moving funeral Mass for French, the first female officer killed in the line of duty in Chicago since 1988.
French’s mother, Elizabeth French, who adopted her daughter through Catholic Charities, was among those who spoke during the funeral Mass.
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“Today, I am here with half of my heart,” she said. “Ella was an amazing young woman.”
She thanked all the members of law enforcement present at the funeral Mass for her daughter.
“Ella was so proud to be a member of your family,” she said.
A second city police officer, Carlos Yanez Jr., sustained major injuries during the traffic stop where French was gunned down. He remains in the hospital.