BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Bishop Daniel E. Flores has given his view on President Trump’s decision to pose for photos in front of a boarded up church near the White House with a bible in his hand.
The episode has drawn lots of commentary from around the world. According to news reports, federal officers used force to clear a large crowd of peaceful demonstrators from the street between the White House and St. John’s Episcopal Church.
The decision to move the demonstrators was made by Attorney General William Barr in order to clear a path for the president. The White House says tear gas was not used. Media reports and those in the crowd say otherwise.
Trump visited the boarded up church the day after a fire was set in its basement. Trump stood in front of the world’s media with his back to the church and held aloft a bible. He did not speak about unrest in the country, nor open the bible.
The Right Rev. Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, said she was “outraged” by the episode, believing the president used the church as a political prop.
Bishop Flores was asked about the episode during a webinar held by the Diocese of Brownsville to celebrate World Communications Day. Normally, Flores would hold the annual event at the San Juan Basilica. However, due to the coronavirus he spoke to reporters online.
Asked about Trump’s visit to St. John’s and his actions there, Flores said: “I found it very difficult to watch. I fear that both parties would use kinds of religious symbols to promote a certain agenda, on one side or the other. I think that is something that happens.”
Flores said the separation of church and state is not something that only protects the state.
“It also in a certain way protects the church. I want the church to be free and to speak and to be a sign of something that is reconciling, something that is not partisan but that informs the conscience to seek something that is good and that can bring about a certain kind of movement forward.”
Flores went on to say:
“That particular moment was a moment amongst a long line of moments where I think religion gets used more for the picture it provides than for a constructive dialogue. That is just my opinion.”
Flores said it is incumbent upon religious leadership to “pray for the country, to pray for the country’s leadership and to pray for the whole good of the political world.”
Her said it is important for the church to “maintain her independence,” to be able to speak to both sides. He said independence is a word that comes from an authentic reading of the Catholic tradition.
“I try not to get into personalities. But I do think the church has something to say about justice and that impacts life. And then people need to go and make the decisions about how that impacts their particular involvement.
“It is a time for us to raise up some signs of reconciliation and not sort of like poke people. I think sometimes the political world on both sides are quite good at poking people.”
Editor’s Note: The main photo accompanying the above news story shows President Trump outside St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. (Photo: NYT/Doug Mills)
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