On Tuesday, Trump traveled to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in northeast Washington, ostensibly to promote an executive order he plans to sign later in the day to “advance international religious freedom.” But as his motorcade drove through the city, the Catholic archbishop of Washington, Wilton Gregory issued a blistering statement condemning his visit.
“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,” he said.
The former pope, who was canonized in 2014, “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,” Gregory said.
The shrine was built and is operated by the Knights of Columbus, a lay Catholic family organization. Trump laid a wreath at the shrine in his brief visit and made no public remarks.
A Catholic leader in Rome also expressed disapproval. Antonio Spadaro, the director of La Cavilta Cattolica, a Jesuit journal, tweeted in Italian that “those who use the Bible for their worldly power in the face of tragedy make it vanity.”
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I find it extremely odd that the Knights of Columbus would invite the President in light of the current circumstances. Let’s see what happens as the story uncovers further. But it’s pretty clear that Archbishop Gregory, a man I really admire, isn’t happy about this.