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Catholic leaders react to Trump supporters attacking U.S. Capitol

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WASHINGTON — Bishop Michael F. Burbidge responded to supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump breaching the U.S. Capitol, putting the building on lockdown and interrupting the count of electoral votes to certify the 2020 election at the U.S. Capitol with a Jan. 6 tweet urging prayers for peace. 


"Today, I was saddened and appalled to see the violence at the US Capitol that disrupted a constitutional process," he wrote. "I ask all people to pray for unity and healing in our nation. May God bless and protect this great country and grant us the peace for which we long."


Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement the evening of Jan. 6 saying he joined "people of goodwill in condemning the violence today at the United States Capitol."


"This is not who we are as Americans," he said, adding that he is praying for members of Congress, Capitol Hill staff members, police officers "and all those working to restore order and public safety."


The archbishop called the peaceful transition of power "one of the hallmarks of this great nation" and stressed that in this "troubling moment, we must recommit ourselves to the values and principles of our democracy and come together as one nation under God."


Much of the country, and the world, watched aghast at scenes coming out of the nation's capital after Vice President Mike Pence said he had no authority to change the results of the election, affirming President-elect Joe Biden as the next commander-in-chief.


"It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not," Pence wrote lawmakers in a letter just before a joint session of Congress to tally the Electoral College count, raising Trump's ire.


Pence ended the letter with "so help me God."


Lawmakers, including the vice president, were rushed to safety after the angry mob broke into the building. Many criticized those who had taken part in the chaos for carrying "Jesus saves" flags mixed in with Trump paraphernalia. News reports also said explosive devices were found at the national offices for the Republican and Democratic parties. One protester was shot by the police and died as a result of her injuries. 


Hours earlier, Trump had publicly urged Pence via Twitter to refute congressional certification of the results, even though Biden won the popular as well as the electoral vote.


"States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval," Trump tweeted, prompting Twitter to flag the tweet as a claim about election fraud that "is disputed."


"All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!" the president continued.


After Pence refused, the president attacked him on Twitter.


Biden, in a news conference hours after the chaos began, told Trump to go on national television, fulfill his oath "and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege."


"It's not protest; it's insurrection," Biden said.


Later in the afternoon, Trump released a video continuing to insist he had won the election. Claiming fraud, he seemed to address supporters who had caused the chaos and told them to "go home."


"But you have to go home now, we have to have peace we have to have law and order, we have to respect our great people in law and order, we don't want anybody hurt," he said. "It's a very tough period of time. We have to have peace, so, go home we love you. You're very special, you've seen what happens, you see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel but go home and go home in peace."


Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori released a statement later in the day saying that "our hearts are heavy as we witness the shocking and unlawful protests occurring in our nation's capital."


"We fervently pray for peace and for God’s protection over our country, our lawmakers, and all those in harm’s way this terrible day. May peace-loving Americans of good will throughout the United States come together to engender peace, reconciliation and healing in our wounded and broken nation, which remains and must always be one, under God," he said.

Read more: Assault on U.S. Capitol shocks the world


Carol Zimmermann contributed to this report.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021