Pope derides anti-mask movements, backs racial justice campaign

Pope Francis condemned George Floyd ‘horrendous’ death and hailed how ‘many people who otherwise did not know each other took to the streets to protest, united by a healthy indignation’. — AFP pic
Pope Francis condemned George Floyd ‘horrendous’ death and hailed how ‘many people who otherwise did not know each other took to the streets to protest, united by a healthy indignation’. — AFP pic

VATICAN CITY, Nov 24 ― Pope Francis took aim yesterday at protests against coronavirus restrictions, contrasting them with the “healthy indignation” seen in the global demonstrations against racism after the killing of George Floyd in the United States.

“Some groups protested, refusing to keep their distance, marching against travel restrictions ― as if measures that governments must impose for the good of their people constitute some kind of political assault on autonomy or personal freedom!” he wrote in a new book.

In Let Us Dream, derived from conversations with his British biographer Austen Ivereigh, he railed against those who claim “that being forced to wear a mask is an unwarranted imposition by the state”.

“You'll never find such people protesting the death of George Floyd, or joining a demonstration because there are shantytowns where children lack water or education, or because there are whole families who have lost their income,” he said.

He added: “On such matters they would never protest; they are incapable of moving outside of their own little world of interests.”

The book, sub-titled A Path to a Better Future, is largely centred on his response to the coronavirus crisis.

“With some exceptions, governments have made great efforts to put the well-being of their people first, acting decisively to protect health and to save lives,” the pope said.

NBA stars visit

The killing of Floyd, a 44-year-old black man living in Minneapolis whose neck was kneeled on for several minutes by a police officer, triggered a wave of anti-racism protests in the United States and around the world.

The pope again condemned his “horrendous” death and hailed how “many people who otherwise did not know each other took to the streets to protest, united by a healthy indignation”.

He also met several players from the NBA basketball league who are involved in campaigns against racism, including Anthony Tolliver from the Memphis Grizzlies, Jonathan Isaac and Marco Belinelli from the San Antonio Spurs, as well as Sterling Brown and Kyle Korver from the Milwaukee Bucks.

They held talks with the pontiff in the official library inside the Vatican and presented Francis with a ball and shirts.

“We are extremely honoured to have had this opportunity to come to the Vatican and share our experiences with Pope Francis,” said Korver in a statement sent by the players' NBPA association.

“His openness and eagerness to discuss these issues was inspiring and a reminder that our work has had a global impact and must continue moving forward,” he added. 

In his book, the pope put distance between himself and some Black Lives Matter protesters who have pulled down historical statues of people tainted by slavery.

The pope called this “amputating history”.

“A free people is a people that remembers, is able to own its history rather than deny it, and learns its best lessons,” he said. ― AFP

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