Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory (shown in 2019), who left Atlanta to lead the Washington Archdiocese, is critical of President Donald Trump’s visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine. AP PHOTO / JOSE LUIS MAGANA
Photo: AP photo / Jose Luis Magana
Photo: AP photo / Jose Luis Magana

Former Atlanta Archbishop Gregory calls Trump’s visit to Catholic shrine ‘baffling’

Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory on Tuesday used strong language to describe a visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine by President Donald Trump.

This was the president’s second visit to a religious site in as many days.

According to CNN, Trump plans to sign an executive order on international religious freedom later Tuesday.

Gregory, the former archbishop of Atlanta, issued a statement ahead of the visit and the day after Trump drew criticism for staging a visit to the historic St. John's Church near the White House.

Police officers and the National Guard used tear gas to move protesters away from the area so Trump could visit the church.

“I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree,” Gregory said in a statement. “Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth. 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.”

RelatedAtlantans sad, but proud as Gregory leaves to rebuild Washington archdiocese

According to the shrine’s website, it is a place of pilgrimage with a first-class relic of St. John Paul II’s blood available for veneration. 

The site is used for liturgy, cultural events, prayer and religious celebrations. It includes a permanent exhibit that showcases significant events in the life of Pope John Paul II.

Separately, Gregory will participate in a virtual dialogue with the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University from noon to 1 p.m. on Friday, June 5, to discuss “Racism in Our Streets and Structures - A Test of Faith, A Crisis for Our Nation.” 

To register for the Zoom discussion, go to this site.

Gregory had served as Atlanta’s archbishop from 2005 to mid-2019.

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