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 watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? 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 CummingsDemocrats slam alleged politicization of Trump State Department after IG report Senior Trump officials accused of harassing, retaliating against career State Dept. employees Overnight Health Care: Planned Parenthood to leave federal family planning program absent court action | Democrats demand Trump withdraw rule on transgender health | Cummings, Sanders investigate three drug companies for 'obstructing' probe 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-CortezJoseph Kennedy mulling primary challenge to Markey in Massachusetts The latest victims of the far-left's environmental zealotry: Long Islanders Ocasio-Cortez brushes off Trump tweet claiming she is 'fuming' over Tlaib, Omar attention MORE (D-N.Y), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibMaher rails against anti-Israel boycott movement: 'A bulls--- purity test' for Democrats Pelosi hits Trump, Netanyahu for 'weakness' amid tensions over Omar and Tlaib Ocasio-Cortez brushes off Trump tweet claiming she is 'fuming' over Tlaib, Omar attention MORE (D-Mich.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarMaher rails against anti-Israel boycott movement: 'A bulls--- purity test' for Democrats Pelosi hits Trump, Netanyahu for 'weakness' amid tensions over Omar and Tlaib Ocasio-Cortez brushes off Trump tweet claiming she is 'fuming' over Tlaib, Omar attention MORE (D-Minn.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyOcasio-Cortez brushes off Trump tweet claiming she is 'fuming' over Tlaib, Omar attention Trump finds consistent foil in 'Squad' Sen. Susan Collins: Israel should allow Omar, Tlaib to visit 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 FrancisEndangered Species Act is a modern-day Noah's Ark — Trump must stop trying to sink it Pope Francis cautions against nationalism, says recent political rhetoric has echoed 'Hitler in 1934' Pope: 'Defenseless people' targeted in US mass shootings 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.