Referring to the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd that has unleashed a wave of outrage across the US and beyond, a Vatican official has called for a “revolution of brotherhood” to fight the “virus” of racism.

– Pontifical Academy for Life president: Racism “a virus of the spirit”

“I would compare [racism] to COVID-19, but it is a virus of the spirit, a cultural virus that, if not isolated, spreads quickly”, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told CNS June 1.

Paglia deplored the death of Floyd, who was detained by police in Minneapolis May 25 on suspicion of having paid for a packet of cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 note.

A video taken at the scene by a bystander shows a white police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes, while the man, in handcuffs on the ground, repeatedly asks for water and complains of not being able to breathe.

In the video, Floyd subsequently appears to lose consciousness, or die. An official autopsy released Monday confirmed that his death was a homicide, throwing further fuel on the fire of the resistance that has led to protests in over 40 US cities as well as in various other countries around the world.

– “Just as brotherhood and solidarity defeat the coronavirus, they also defeat racism”

Speaking to CNS in the midst of the protests over police brutality and embedded institutional and societal racism, Archbishop Paglia pleaded for people to strengthen their care for each other and their sense “that we are one family of 7 billion people”.

“It’s not that I can say to my brother, ‘I don’t care about you’ because he’s the ninth brother and I only like the first five siblings”, the prelate explained.

“Today we must start a revolution of brotherhood”, Paglia continued. “We are all brothers and sisters. Brotherhood is a promise that is lacking in modern times… In my opinion, the true strength that supports us in our weakness is brotherhood and solidarity. And just as it defeats the coronavirus, it also defeats racism”.

“It’s not enough to remain silent”, Paglia added. “To prevent the virus of racism from multiplying, those [who oppose racism] must also multiply”.

– Pope should write text on racism, a problem “all over the world”

The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life said the racism was not just a problem in the US, although he said that that country had “lost” in a particular way its vocation to help others and not just itself and despite the fact there was still “a great mission for American Catholicism” in terms of standing up for fraternity.

Rather, racism is a problem “all over the world”, Paglia deplored, adding that for that reason he was of the opinion that the Pope should write a special text addressing the phenomenon.

But even if Francis does not end up writing that document, the Church’s position on the social division that has been laid bare by the Floyd murder was well set-out in the Pope’s 2019 letter on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Paglia recalled.

In that January 2019 letter – entitled “The Human Community” – Francis insisted that “it is time for a new vision aimed at promoting a humanism of fraternity and solidarity between individuals and peoples” in the face of an “anti-culture… of indifference to the community: hostile to men and women and in league with the arrogance of wealth”.

More stories on Novena on racism:

World Council of Churches expresses “revulsion” at George Floyd murder, calls for “full accountability”

‘Pope whisperer’ calls on faithful to activate Catholic “antibodies” against populist exploitation of coronavirus scare


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.