The Archbishop of St Louis, Missouri, has called on protesters and angry locals not to “lash out” in violence as unrest engulfed the city of Ferguson last night.
Archbishop Robert Carlson was speaking at a prayer service at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta church in Ferguson after a grand jury ruling sparked rioting.
The grand jury had decided that a police officer who shot dead an unarmed black teenager in August would not face criminal charges.
The archbishop, speaking as protesters burned and looted shops and clashed with police, said: “I implore each of you: Choose peace!
“Reject any false and empty hope that violence will solve problems. Violence only creates more violence. Let’s work for a better, stronger, more holy community – one founded upon respect for each other, respect for life, and our shared responsibility for the common good.”
“I know that many feel hurt, betrayed, forgotten and powerless,” Archbishop Carlson said. “I know anger, disappointment, resentment and fear abound in our community at this moment, but we must accept this decision as the proper functioning of our justice system. … We all want justice, so we should respect the integrity of our system of justice as something that aims for the common good. This grand jury decision is not an excuse for more violence.
“Now is the time to channel emotions in a way that helps build up our community, to become more active in your church or religious community, to volunteer at a food pantry or community service organisation, to take part in political activity, to mentor a young person.
“Whatever you do, do not lash out with violence at your brothers and sisters. Do not seek to destroy or divide. Instead, we must come together as a community through prayer, mutual understanding, and forgiveness if we are to obtain peace. Rather than fuel the fires of hatred and division, we should strive for peace in our own hearts and share it with those around us. Violence does not lead to peace; they are opposing forces and cannot co-exist.”
Archbishop Carlson urged the faithful: “Pray unceasingly for peace. Pray for our leaders and pray for your neighbours. If you feel called to act, do so only after prayer.”
He added: “Long-term solutions will ultimately come about when we are quick to apologize for our faults, and quick to forgive the faults of others,” said Archbishop Carlson.
“Both families need prayers now more than ever,” he said. “With profound hope in the power of the Holy Spirit, and through the intercession of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, I ask all the faithful in the Archdiocese of St Louis as well as all people of faith to join me in praying for peace and justice in our community.”