Archbishop to offer Mass for peace, justice Friday in response to Falcon Heights shooting

| July 8, 2016 | 1 Comment

Archbishop Bernard Hebda plans to offer a Mass for the preservation of justice and peace 5:15 p.m. July 8 at the the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul following the July 6 shooting death of Philando Castile by a police officer in Falcon Heights.

“As people of faith, we turn to the Lord in challenging times, seeking not only his consolation and healing but also his wisdom and guidance,” Archbishop Hebda said in a July 8 statement. “In the midst of anger, fear and frustration, we need to come together as God’s family to pray that God’s grace might unite all people of good will and bring light into the darkness of this difficult time.”

He added: “In its simplicity and familiarity, the Mass will allow us to ask the Lord not only to console Mr. Castile’s grieving family and loved ones, but also to heal the divisions in our community, to guide our public servants in their pursuit of the common good, and to satisfy the longings of those who thirst for justice and peace.”

Castile, 32, was shot around 9 p.m. July 6 by St. Anthony Police Department Officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights. The aftermath of the shooting was captured on Facebook Live by Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was in the car’s passenger seat. Her 4-year-old daughter was also at the scene. Castile died about 20 minutes later at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.

The shooting of Castile, an African-American, is the most recent in a series of high-profile fatal shootings of black men by police officers. Others include Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014; Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina, in April 2015; and Jamar Clark in north Minneapolis in November 2015. After an investigation, the Hennepin County attorney declined in March to charge the two involved officers, who were white, in Clark’s death.

Castile’s shooting came a day after a black Baton Rouge man was fatally shot by a police officer outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. On July 7, a sniper shot and killed five police officers and wounded six others and a civilian during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Dallas.

Black Lives Matter protesters filled Summit Avenue in St. Paul in front of the governor’s mansion July 7 to draw attention to Castile’s death. Gov. Mark Dayton said he was “appalled” by the shooting and that he wouldn’t have been killed if he had been white. He said he would demand that the U.S. Department of Justice investigate the shooting death.

President Barack Obama also reacted to Castile’s shooting July 7.

“When incidents like this occur, there’s a big chunk of our citizenry that feels as if, because of the color of their skin, they are not being treated the same, and that hurts, and that should trouble all of us,” he said in a statement. “This is not just a black issue, not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we all should care about.”

Speaking July 8 on Relevant Radio 1330’s “The Rediscover Hour” with host Jeff Cavins, Archbishop Hebda called the recent shootings “very sad.”

“Christ is always close to those in need, those who suffer,” he said. “Pope Francis continuously reminds us of how important it is that we as Church go out to those in need, that we be that balm of healing that people need, and we try as best we can to bring Christ and his consolation, his peace, into difficult situations.”

He said he has been encouraging local Catholics to pray for Castile and his family and loved ones, and to pray for society and communities “that we might be places of peace and a place where the dignity of each human life is respected, where we come to know each other as sons and daughters of God and recognize that image of God in each of us.”

He said the July 8 Mass is a special Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice found in the Roman Missal, and that Massgoers will also be praying for community unity and the alleviation of pain related to the shootings.

With justice, “we want to give to each person what is their due, but we go beyond that as well as we strive to really recognize that each of us is created in the image and likeness of God,” Archbishop Hebda said.

He said that Christians should be “authentic in our prayer,” to “allow the Lord to know what’s in our hearts, the anguish that’s there, perhaps anxiety that’s there, whatever it is, to open up our hearts in a way that’s authentic so we’re able to really enter into that prayer.”

He said that prayer can implore God “to do the impossible, in the sense of bringing peace to a very difficult situation.”


Listen to Archbishop Hebda on “The Rediscover Hour” with host Jeff Cavins:

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  • Charles C.

    It will be interesting to see if The Catholic Spirit provides further information about the death of Mr. Castile. Perhaps we’ll see items like:

    “Philando Castile was a gang member (crips), frequently picturing himself with firearms, cash, drugs and gang signs . . .”

    “Four days before they were pulled over, and approximately four blocks from where the shooting took place, another firearm incident occurred. A Super USA Convenience Store was robbed at gunpoint . . .”

    “[T]he local police requested help from the public on Tuesday July 5th by releasing CCTV video images of two armed black males who robbed the convenience store at gunpoint . . .”

    “Ears are like fingerprints, they are used to match suspects to captured images. The physical description of suspect #2, the gunman during the July 2nd robbery, fits the physical description of Mr. Philando Castile on July 6th to a tee . . .”

    (The ears comment was based on the remarkable similarity of the photo of the ear of Mr. Castile in the car and that of one of the gunmen in the Super USA armed robbery.)

    “Would it change the overall impression of events if the officer was not simply pulling over a random vehicle identified with a broken tail light (claim of Ms. Reynolds); but rather the officer was pulling over a vehicle containing a B.O.L.O. [be on the lookout] driver who fit the exact profile of an armed robbery suspect a few days earlier?”

    And from one anguished moment from the background audio:

    “Officer:…”I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hand off it.”

    We know that Mr. Castile had a gun in the area he was reaching for. We also know that the Sheriff of Ramsey County has said that Mr. Castile did not have a permit for it.

    Now Bishop, pray for justice, that’s always a good thing. But what exactly does justice mean in this case? Based on past experience, have many people already decided what justice requires and are prepared to protest, perhaps violently as in Dallas?

    Oh, and pray for the Governor who made the ridiculous and unsupported statement that Mr. Castile would not have been shot had he been White. There’s a person who needs real healing.