New DC Catholic archbishop accuses Trump of 'diminishing our national life' over tweets about minority lawmakers

New DC Catholic archbishop accuses Trump of 'diminishing our national life' over tweets about minority lawmakers
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Wilton Gregory, Washington, D.C.'s new Catholic leader and the country’s only black archbishop, issued his first public statement on Thursday, accusing President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he will 'temporarily hold off' on declaring Mexican drug cartels as terror organization House Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Artist behind gold toilet offered to Trump sells banana duct-taped to a wall for 0,000 MORE of “diminishing our national life” with his attacks on congressional lawmakers of color.

“I have stressed that I am a pastor and fellow disciple of Jesus, not a political leader,” Gregory said in remarks released by the Catholic Standard. “There are, however, sometimes, when a pastor and a disciple of Jesus is called to speak out to defend the dignity of all God’s children.”

He said recent comments from Trump targeting lawmakers of color “have deepened divisions and diminished our national life.”

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Gregory pointed specifically to Trump’s attacks on African American Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsImpeachment can't wait Adam Schiff's star rises with impeachment hearings Tucker Carlson calls Trump 'full-blown BS artist' in segment defending him from media coverage MORE (D-Md.) and his district, which encompasses the majority-black city of Baltimore. Trump last Saturday called Baltimore a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.”

“I join my brother Archbishop William Lori in sadness and deep regret for the ways our Maryland neighbors in Baltimore have been denigrated in recent public attacks,” the archbishop said.

Gregory said he has been meeting privately with major Catholic lay groups to urge them to “promote respect” and to work to “reject racism, disrespect or brutality in speech and action.”

His comments come as Catholic and other high-profile religious leaders in Washington have publicly denounced Trump's remarks against minority lawmakers.

Trump previously sparked uproar by tweeting that four non-white progressive congresswomen — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez: 'Won't you look at that: Amazon is coming to NYC anyway' House approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump Biden: Media misinterpreted Ocasio-Cortez's impact on Democrats MORE (D-N.Y), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibHouse approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump House moves ahead on long-stalled resolution supporting two states for Israelis and Palestinians GOP leader says he had 'a hard time' believing Pelosi MORE (D-Mich.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarHouse approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump Al Green calls for including Trump's 'racism' in impeachment articles Republicans disavow GOP candidate who said 'we should hang' Omar MORE (D-Minn.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyBooker unveils legislation for federal bill to ban discrimination against natural hair House approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump Al Green calls for including Trump's 'racism' in impeachment articles MORE (D-Mass.) — should "go back" to the "crime infested places" they came from, rather than speak out about U.S. policies.

All of the women targeted are U.S. citizens; Omar is the only one of the four born outside the U.S.  

Gregory said his Catholic faith has taught him to respect people regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnicity and background.

He said that “fundamental human dignity and basic decency” also extends to refugees and other newcomers to the U.S.

“Comments which dismiss, demean or demonize any of God’s children are destructive of the common good and a denial of our national pledge of ‘liberty and justice for all,’” Gregory wrote.

The Catholic leader said he will pray that Trump and other national leaders prevent the further division of the country. “The growing plague of offense and disrespect in speech and actions must end,” he said.

Pope FrancisPope FrancisJudge in same-sex marriage denied communion at Michigan Catholic church Pope appeals to world leaders to renounce nuclear weapons During visit to Nagasaki, Pope Francis denounces use of atomic weapons MORE tapped Gregory, a moderate who previously served as Atlanta’s archbishop, to lead the archdiocese in Washington, D.C., in April. Gregory was installed in May to replace Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who was forced to resign last year after he was implicated in covering up sexual abuse at a string of Pennsylvania churches, as revealed by a grand jury.

He became the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2001, and shortly after adopted a "zero-tolerance" policy to respond to sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church.