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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 TrumpUS, South Korea reach agreement on cost-sharing for troops Graham: Trump can make GOP bigger, stronger, or he 'could destroy it' Biden nominates female generals whose promotions were reportedly delayed under Trump 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 CummingsBottom line House Democrats reintroduce bill to reduce lobbyist influence Trump voters and progressives have a lot in common — and Biden can unite them 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-CortezProgressives' majority delusions politically costly Manchin: Every member of the Senate thinks minimum wage should increase Progressives won't oppose bill over limits on stimulus checks MORE (D-N.Y), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibSinema pushes back on criticism of her vote against minimum wage Progressives push White House to overturn wage ruling Six ways to visualize a divided America MORE (D-Mich.), Ilhan OmarIlhan Omar Omar: 'Disappointing' that we're 'sending money to less people than the Trump administration' House approves George Floyd Justice in Policing Act House Democrats' ambitious agenda set to run into Senate blockade MORE (D-Minn.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyPressley says image of Black custodial staff cleaning up Capitol after Jan. 6 riot 'haunts' her DeJoy apologizes for mail delays while defending Postal Service changes DeJoy set for grilling by House Oversight panel 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 FrancisPope: Christians in Iraq need 'ability to forgive' Pope Francis holds historic meeting with Iraq's top Shiite Overnight Defense: White House open to reforming war powers | Army base might house migrant children | Fauci scolds military on vaccine 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.