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US cardinal at Vatican prays for Floyd, and America’s future

US Cardinal Kevin Joseph Farrell leads a vigil over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25, in Rome, Friday, June 5, 2020. Cardinal Farrell says the killing of George Floyd has laid bare that the Christian principles of the U.S. Constitution aren’t being applied to blacks, and is evidence that divisive, demonizing language can kill. (Andrew Medichini / AP)
US Cardinal Kevin Joseph Farrell leads a vigil over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25, in Rome, Friday, June 5, 2020. Cardinal Farrell says the killing of George Floyd has laid bare that the Christian principles of the U.S. Constitution aren’t being applied to blacks, and is evidence that divisive, demonizing language can kill. (Andrew Medichini / AP)
By Nicole Winfield Associated Press

ROME – The highest-ranking American cardinal at the Vatican on Friday deplored the “unjust” killing of George Floyd, saying it laid bare that the Christian principles of the U.S. Constitution aren’t being applied to black people.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who heads the Vatican’s laity office, told the Associated Press that the brutality of what happened to Floyd after his arrest in Minneapolis was so unreal it seemed like a movie. Floyd, who was handcuffed, died after a police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes, even after he stopped pleading for air.

“We would never think that that could possibly happen,” Farrell said. “They are trained individuals who knew that in that position, that person was not going to survive.”

“Now, what brings a person to that point?” he said. “We all have to ask ourselves: What has brought us to that point?”

Farrell on Friday presided over a prayer service in honor of Floyd and other victims of racism organized by the Sant’Egidio Community, a Rome-based Catholic charity that is close to Pope Francis.

Sitting in the front row at the Santa Maria in Trastevere church in downtown Rome was U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Calista Gingrich and her husband, Newt, the former U.S. house speaker. They both wore protective masks and sat in chairs spaced apart, as called for by Italy’s anti-virus health measures.

In his remarks, Farrell said the protests that have broken out after Floyd’s death make clear that the civil rights movement of the 1960s failed to resolve all of America’s race problems.

Despite laws, constitutional protections and famous speeches that proclaim equality, “the human heart can always close itself in its egoism and return to being polluted by sin, provoking new injustices, violences and oppressions,” he said.

Farrell, an Irish-born naturalized U.S. citizen and the former bishop of Dallas, prayed for Floyd, Floyd’s family and all victims of injustice, and for peaceful, fraternal coexistence in America.

“May they find peace, serenity and comprehension,” he said.

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