The bishops were responding to the tragic events of Saturday, August 12, which occurred when a group of white nationalists gathered for a “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville. The event was organized in opposition to a plan by the city to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park in Charlottesville. As the rally began, a group of counter-protestors gathered to oppose them, and the taunting and shoving quickly escalated into violence.
While police were trying to break up the mob, a car driven by a 20-year-old Ohio man named James Alex Fields, Jr. plowed into the crowd, killing a 32 year old woman and injuring at least 34 others.
Two Virginia State Patrol troopers also died when the helicopter they were using to monitor the riot crashed near Charlottesville.
The intensity of the violence left the country stunned and brought swift condemnation from President Trump.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides," he said from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
He went on to call for the hate and division to stop, adding that “what is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order, and the protection of innocent lives.”
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops echoed his sentiments in a statement released shortly after the violence occurred.
"On behalf of the bishops of the United States, I join leaders from around the nation in condemning the violence and hatred that have now led to one death and multiple injuries in Charlottesville, Virginia. We offer our prayers for the family and loved ones of the person who was killed and for all those who have been injured. We join our voices to all those calling for calm.”
He went on to call upon the faithful to pray for an end to the evil that fueled Saturday’s event, and so many of the violent protests that have engulfed communities in the past few years.
“The abhorrent acts of hatred on display in Charlottesville are an attack on the unity of our nation and therefore summon us all to fervent prayer and peaceful action. The bishops stand with all who are oppressed by evil ideology and entrust all who suffer to the prayers of St. Peter Claver as we approach his feast day. We also stand ready to work with all people of goodwill for an end to racial violence and for the building of peace in our communities.
He added: “We stand against the evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-nazism. We stand with our sisters and brothers united in the sacrifice of Jesus, by which love's victory over every form of evil is assured."
He went on to encourage all to offer a prayer of gratitude for those who work to protect our communities from this kind of violence and to remember those who lost their lives.
"Let us join their witness and stand against every form of oppression."
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