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'We can't bring George Floyd back to life,' Hebda says at Mass for peace

Archbishop Bernard Hebda on Monday offered Mass for peace and justice in Minnesota, as closing arguments and jury deliberations are set begin in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police office charged with murder in the 2020 death of George Floyd.

“As we make our prayers today for peace and justice in the name of Jesus, we can rest assured that our loving Father will hear them. The Father loves Jesus and the Father loves us,” Hebda said during his April 19 homily.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis preaches April 19, during a Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice, in the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minn. Credit: Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.


Hebda offered the Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice in the Cathedral of Saint Paul in the city of St. Paul, and asked priests across the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to do the same.

“As the Chauvin trial in Minneapolis comes to its conclusion, and as our communities experience the ongoing tension surrounding the death of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center...we need to lean-in to our faith even more, and ask our Lord to help us recognize the shared humanity of all of our sisters and brothers,” Hebda wrote in an announcement Friday.  

“We plead with the Prince of Peace to penetrate our hearts. It is only by seeing Christ in each other that we will honor the dignity of each person and arrive at true peace and justice in our world, in our country, in our communities and in our families.”

For more: Archbishop Hebda spoke with The Pillar Monday about the Church’s role in promoting racial healing and justice in Minnesota. Read his thoughts here.

Prosecutors and Chauvin’s defense team will offer closing arguments Monday morning in a trial that has attracted attention around the world. The May 2020 death of George Floyd sparked a wave of protests across the U.S. amid calls for police reform and against racism.

Protests, which lasted through the summer of 2020, included frequent clashes between police and demonstrators which included the deployment of tear gas and rubber bullets, and in many cities the destruction and damage of property, including government buildings. In May 2020, a basilica in Minneapolis was damaged by fire set in the church’s interior.

Chauvin, 45, has been charged with second degree murder for kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed George Floyd for more than nine minutes on May 25, 2020, long after Floyd had lost consciousness and as a crowd gathered around the scene urging the officer to relent. Witnesses testified that Chauvin’s action violated police procedures, while the defense says that Floyd died because of a drug overdose and his underlying health issues.

Tension over racism and police activity has continued throughout the year since Floyd’s death. Earlier this month in suburban Minneapolis, a police officer shot and killed 20-year old Daunte Wright at a conflict that began as a traffic stop. The officer, who has been charged with manslaughter, claims that she thought her handgun was a taser.

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In his homily Monday, Hebda told Catholics that prayer “is our best possible response at this time.”

The archbishop encouraged Catholics to faith. 

“We can’t control what happens in the trial. We can’t single-handedly force healing for those who feel the wound of racism in our land,” Hebda said.

“We can’t bring George Floyd back to life, or Daunte Wright back to life.”

“Does that mean that we do nothing? Absolutely not. We each have to offer our five loaves and two fish no matter how meager,” he added.

“We gather this morning to do just that. To offer our humble prayers.”

“Let us pray that [God’s] will might be done,” Hebda urged Massgoers.

“That he would send down wisdom and prudence for the jurors given the weighty responsibility of deciding Mr. Chauvin’s guilt or innocence. That he would help us receive the verdict with wisdom and prudence. That he would open our hearts to whatever conversion is needed there.”

“That he would bless our cities and communities with the fruits of the peace and justice that only he can bring.”

At the conclusion of the Mass, the archbishop also mentioned priests of the St. Paul and Minneapolis archdiocese, who “have been praying for peace and justice throughout this year, and doing amazing things in their parishes to promote dialogue, to promote respect, to promote discussion.”

“Certainly, I know we’ve been offering lots of holy hours and lots of rosaries, always for this intention. So I’m very grateful to them,” Hebda said, “and to all who are being intentional to make sure that we are able to offer this great gift of prayer to our community.”

In Minneapolis, business owners and government officials have begun boarding up buildings in anticipation of the possibility of unrest after Chauvin’s verdict is announced. Some government buildings will be evacuated before the verdict is delivered, and Minneapolis public schools will close for in-person instruction. Razor wire has been placed around some police buildings, and National Guard troops have been mobilized.

But Hebda urged trust and continued prayers. He explained that by the sacrifice of the Mass, the seemingly “inconsequential” and “meager” prayers of Catholics are joined to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.

“We offer them to Jesus and allow him to work the miracle,” Hebda said.

“We unite our prayers to those of Christ at this Mass and every Mass. That gives them an efficacy beyond anything we can imagine.”

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