US Vatican cardinal to lead prayers for George Floyd

Cardinal Kevin Joseph Farrell Credit Lucia Ballester CNA Cardinal Kevin Farrell. | Lucia Ballester/CNA.

A U.S. Vatican cardinal will lead prayers for George Floyd in Rome Friday.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell will preside at a prayer service at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere June 5 at 7 p.m. local time. Farrell, the prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, is the Vatican's highest-ranking U.S. official.

The service is being organized by the Community of Sant'Egidio, a lay Catholic association founded in 1968 by Andrea Riccardi. In a June 4 press release, the community said participants would pray for "peaceful coexistence" in the U.S., which has been rocked by protests since Floyd was killed in police custody May 25.

Footage of the arrest, which caused widespread outrage, showed a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds while other officers looked on. Floyd could be heard saying "I can't breathe," "Mama," and "Please" before he died. 

The prayer service will coincide with a demonstration in solidarity with protesters in the U.S. to be held Friday evening in Rome's Piazza Barberini.

The service comes two days after Pope Francis said he was praying for Floyd's soul

Speaking at his general audience June 3, the pope said: "Dear brothers and sisters in the United States, I have witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest in your nation in these past days, following the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd."

"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." 

Also on Wednesday, Pope Francis called Los Angeles Archbishop José Gómez, the president of the U.S. bishops' conference, to convey his prayers for and solidarity with Americans amid the unrest.

The pope also called Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, the first U.S. bishop to take part in a public protest after Floyd's death. Along with a group of priests from his diocese, Seitz knelt for nine minutes of silent prayer in memory of Floyd June 1, holding a sign reading "Black Lives Matter."

Seitz told local news website El Paso Matters that Francis "said he wanted to congratulate me."

Farrell, an Irish-born naturalized U.S. citizen, served as Bishop of Dallas, Texas, from 2007 to 2016, when the pope appointed him prefect of the newly formed Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.

In 2019, Pope Francis named him Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, giving him responsibility for preparing for papal conclaves and managing the administration of the Holy See in the period between a pope's death or resignation and the election of a new pope.

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