DC Archbishop Chastises Trump Photo-Op Ahead Of POTUS Shrine Visit

TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible as he gestures, alongside US Attorney General William Barr (L), White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows (2nd-L) and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, o... TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible as he gestures, alongside US Attorney General William Barr (L), White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows (2nd-L) and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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June 2, 2020 12:59 p.m.

Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory issued a scathing statement ahead of the President’s visit to St. John Paul II’s National Shrine on Tuesday, which comes a day after his surprise, politically-timed photo-op in front of the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Gregory issued a statement regarding Trump’s visit to the shrine as the President faces mounting criticism over his surprise visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church on Monday evening.

In a statement issued shortly before Trump’s visit, Gregory wrote that he finds it “baffling and reprehensible” that any Catholic facility permitted itself to be “so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles.”

Citing the namesake of the shrine that Trump is set to visit, Gregory added that St. Pope John Paul II was “an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings” and slammed the President’s photo-op the night before — a move that followed federal police’s use of tear gas and flash bangs to disperse an otherwise peaceful protest outside the White House.

“His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth,” Gregory said. “He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.”

Gregory joins other local religious leaders in swiftly condemning Trump for his church photo-op that appeared to be a way to boost his claim that he is the “President of law and order” and curry favor with his base of white evangelical supporters.

An Episcopal priest in D.C. — who recalled federal police using tear gas to kick her off of the church’s property ahead of Trump’s surprise visit to the church — said that police “turned holy ground into a battleground” for the President’s photo-op.

The Episcopal bishop of Washington also blasted Trump just hours after his photo-op, saying on CNN that he “used a Bible and the sacred text of the Judeo-Christian and one of the churches of my diocese without permission as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything our churches stand for.”

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