Archbishop attacks President Trump for visiting shrines as US burns

Washington’s Catholic archbishop has strongly criticised President Donald Trump’s visit to a shrine as civil unrest continues in the US over the death of a black man in police custody.

Tuesday’s visit “manipulated” the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Archbishop Wilton D Gregory said.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people joined largely peaceful demonstrations in cities across the country.

In New York City, protesters defied an earlier curfew.

Traffic police were deployed to stop a repeat of the previous night’s looting in Manhattan, and there were no reports of major incidents.

At least 40 cities have imposed strict curfew measures after days of violent protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, 46, in Minneapolis on 25 May.

In Atlanta, police fired tear gas to disperse a demonstration near Centennial Olympic Park, reports said.

Earlier, Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden criticised President Donald Trump for using the crisis to appeal to his supporters, saying he was “serving the passions of his base”.

On Monday, Mr Trump said he would deploy the army if cities and states failed to control the protests.

Archbishop attacks Trump:

In a statement ahead of the president’s visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine on Tuesday, Archbishop Wilton D Gregory said it violated the church’s religious principles, adding that Catholics should defend the rights of all people.

“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,” the statement said.

The archbishop also condemned the forceful clearing of protesters outside the White House on Monday to allow Mr Trump to visit a church where he held a Bible in front of gathered media.

Saint John Paul “would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate [protestors] for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship,” he commented.

Archbishop Gregory is the first African-American to lead the diocese. The shrine is run by the Knights of Columbus, an all-male Catholic organisation that has lobbied for conservative political causes.

Washington’s Episcopalian bishop, Mariann Budde, also condemned the president’s actions. In the UK the archbishops of York and Canterbury said the unrest exposed “the ongoing evil of white supremacy”.