Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, condemned the “violence and hatred” playing out at a gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., saying that U.S. bishops “stand with all who are oppressed by evil ideology” and joining their “voices to all those calling for calm.”
A group describing themselves as part of the “alt-right” gathered in Charlottesville this weekend, some carrying Nazi paraphernalia and chanting anti-Semitic remarks through the streets. The rally turned violent when a car plowed into a crowd of people who were protesting a rally, which was held by white nationalists who oppose the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee by the City of Charlottesville. Officials say one person was killed and at least 26 were treated at local hospitals.
“The abhorrent acts of hatred on display in Charlottesville are an attack on the unity of our nation.”
“The abhorrent acts of hatred on display in Charlottesville are an attack on the unity of our nation and therefore summon us all to fervent prayer and peaceful action,” the cardinal said in a statement released late Saturday afternoon.
“We also stand ready to work with all people of goodwill for an end to racial violence and for the building of peace in our communities,” he continued.
Cardinal DiNardo, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston, also offered “prayers for the family and loved ones of the person who was killed and for all those who have been injured.”
Meanwhile, Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of the Diocese of Richmond, which includes Charlottesville, released a statement on Saturday condemning the violence.
“In the last 24 hours, hatred and violence have been on display in the City of Charlottesville. I earnestly pray for peace,” he said, quoting a prayer for peace commonly attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.
“Lord, show us new ways in which hatred can be left behind, wounds healed, and unity restored.”
“I pray that those men and women on both sides can talk and seek solutions to their differences respectfully,” the statement continued. “The love of Jesus Christ is the most powerful weapon against hatred. Only the light of Christ can quench the torches of hatred and violence. Let us pray for peace.”
The Archdiocese of Washington, located about 100 miles north of the rally, tweeted, “Lord, show us new ways in which hatred can be left behind, wounds healed, and unity restored. Amen. #charlottesville #pray4peace”
Local clergy gathered in Charlottesville to voice opposition to the rally and other religious leaders took to social media to condemn racism in light of the rally:
Pray for an end to the evil of racism. And pray, especially today, for its victims. Pray for justice and mercy in our nation.— James D Conley (@bishop_conley) August 12, 2017
We stand in solidarity with clergy & community gathered in Charlottesville to reject the hatred and discrimination of white supremacy. pic.twitter.com/77HINFc8lP— Virginia Synod ELCA (@VirginiaSynod) August 12, 2017
I am grieved to the core to think that this is the United States of America I am watching on live television right now.— Russell Moore (@drmoore) August 12, 2017
The so-called Alt-Right white supremacist ideologies are anti-Christ and satanic to the core. We should say so. #SBC17— Russell Moore (@drmoore) June 14, 2017
The violence in #Charlottesville is unsettling. We must respect each other as one nation under God. Our Lady Queen of Peace, pray for us.— Bishop Burbidge (@BishopBurbidge) August 12, 2017
The chaos boiled over at what is believed to be the largest group of white nationalists to come together in a decade: The governor declared a state of emergency, police dressed in riot gear ordered people out and helicopters circled overhead.
The turbulence began Friday night when the white nationalists carried torches though the university campus in what they billed as a “pro-white” demonstration. It quickly spiraled into violence Saturday morning. Hundreds of people threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays. At least eight were injured and one arrested in connection with the demonstration.
President Trump tweeted Saturday that “we ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for.” He then wrote “There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!”
But some of the white nationalists cited Donald Trump’s election victory as validation for their beliefs, and Mr. Trump’s critics pointed to the president’s racially tinged rhetoric as exploiting the nation’s festering racial tensions.
Later on Saturday, Mr. Trump condemned what he described as violence “on many sides” but he did not specifically mention racism or the injuries caused by the car.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. This story will be updated.