St. Louis archbishop urges prayer in face of Ferguson violence
St. Louis, Mo., Aug 19, 2014 / 05:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News) - Following more than a week of protests after the death of an African-American teen, the Archdiocese of St. Louis is asking Catholics to offer special prayers for peace in the coming days.
“We are all aware of the turmoil and tragedy our St. Louis community is experiencing. The residents of Ferguson, Missouri, are struggling to find peace in the chaos. As people of Christ, we are struggling to find direction in the unrest,” said Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis in an Aug. 18 letter.
“In all circumstances, but especially in these difficult times, we are all called to be instruments of peace through our words and actions.”
Appealing for peace, the archbishop announced he will be celebrating a Mass for Peace and Justice at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, on Wednesday, Aug. 20, and will host a special collection “to assist food pantries and parishes in the Ferguson area that offer assistance to those who have been affected by the looting and destruction of property.” Archbishop Carlson invited all the parishes “to offer Masses for peace in our community,” as well as to arrange Holy Hours, rosaries and additional special collections.
He also stated that Catholic schools within the archdiocese will “begin a daily rosary for peace and to offer special intentions during all school Masses,” as Catholic schools begin classes.
The archbishop – referencing Pope Francis’s encouragement “to ask Our Lady, the Undoer of Knots, to intercede for us in difficult circumstances” – asked Catholics to ask Mary for her prayers “for peace and justice in our community.”
The town of Ferguson, Mo., along with other communities surrounding St. Louis, have erupted in demonstrations and protests following the Aug. 9 shooting of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown. Eyewitness reports conflict, with some saying that the 18-year-old was holding his hands in the air in a gesture of surrender as he was shot.
According to an Aug. 15 announcement by Ferguson police, Brown is an alleged suspect in a convenience store robbery that occurred earlier on the day of the shooting, though the officer who shot Brown did not know of these allegations at the time of the confrontation.
In the days since the shooting, vigils and protests have taken place around the St. Louis area. Some demonstrations have escalated into violence or been taken advantage of by looters. Local police have also come under criticism for the targeting of minority communities, as well as for the use of SWAT teams, tear gas and rubber bullets to disrupt peaceful demonstrations and unarmed protesters.
Reporters covering the protests, as well as numerous community members, have been arrested during the protests.
In some cases, protesters have reacted by volleying back tear gas canisters and objects towards the police.
In the days since the beginning of the protests, law enforcement duties have been transferred from local police to state highway patrol officials.
Archbishop Carlson said that he has “personally visited Ferguson and Michael Brown's memorial to offer my prayers for everyone affected by this tragedy,” and expressed that he found strength in the face of the situation “in the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: ‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.’”