President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited the St John Paul II National Shrine in Washington before he signed an executive order back at the White House to expand US support for international religious freedom efforts.
Yesterday’s crosstown trip was excoriated by several Catholic leaders, including Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, who said he found 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” by allowing the visit.
The Trumps’ visit to the shrine in Northeast Washington came on the 41st anniversary of the start of St John Paul II’s pilgrimage to his native Poland, the first trip by the pope during which he repeatedly addressed religious and political freedom.
The White House said the president offered no remarks during the visit. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accompanied the Trumps during the brief stay at the shrine.
Over 100 people, including children and their parents, had gathered near the shrine and began chanting slogans calling for justice for George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on 25th May.
Shrine officials later issued a statement saying White House officials originally scheduled the visit ‘as an event for the president to sign an executive order related to global religious freedom’.
‘This was fitting given St John Paul II was a tireless advocate of religious liberty throughout his pontificate,’ the statement said. ‘International religious freedom receives widespread bipartisan support, including unanimous passage of legislation in defence of persecuted Christians and religious minorities around the world.
‘The shrine welcomes all people to come and pray and learn about the legacy of St John Paul II,’ it added.
Picture: US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump pose outside the St John Paul II National Shrine in Washington on 2nd June 2020, the 41st anniversary of beginning of pope’s 1979 historic visit to Poland. (CNS photo/Tom Brenner, Reuters).