USCCB president offers prayers for nation after Trump supporters breach U.S. Capitol

Law enforcement officers clash with extremist supporters of President Donald Trump, attempting to breach security barriers at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Jan. 6, 2021, during a riot to disrupt Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election. CNS photo/Jim Urquhart, Reuters

WASHINGTON. The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops condemned the violence that occurred when thousands of supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump breached the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, putting the building on lockdown and interrupting the count of electoral votes to certify the 2020 election, capping the last days of a tumultuous presidency with chaos.

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, issued a statement the evening of Jan. 6 saying he joined “people of goodwill in condemning the violence today at the United States Capitol.”

“This is not who we are as Americans,” he said, adding that he is praying for members of Congress, Capitol Hill staff members, police officers “and all those working to restore order and public safety.”

The archbishop called the peaceful transition of power “one of the hallmarks of this great nation” and stressed that in this “troubling moment, we must recommit ourselves to the values and principles of our democracy and come together as one nation under God.”

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori released a statement later in the day saying that “our hearts are heavy as we witness the shocking and unlawful protests occurring in our nation’s capital.”

Extremist supporters of President Donald Trump storm into the U.S. Capitol in Washington Jan. 6, 2021, during a riot to contest the certification of the 2020 presidential election. CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters

“We fervently pray for peace and for God’s protection over our country, our lawmakers, and all those in harm’s way this terrible day. May peace-loving Americans of good will throughout the United States come together to engender peace, reconciliation and healing in our wounded and broken nation, which remains and must always be one, under God,” he said.

Much of the country, and the world, watched aghast at scenes coming out of the nation’s capital after Vice President Mike Pence said he had no authority to change the results of the election, affirming President-elect Joe Biden as the next commander-in-chief.

Lawmakers, including the vice president, were rushed to safety after the angry mob broke into the building. Images on Twitter showed them breaking down doors, smashing windows, and some asking the whereabouts of the vice president, who was said to have defied Trump by refusing to block Congress from certifying the results. With “Trump 2020” flags, they freely roamed the halls of the Capitol as scared lawmakers crowded together to pray, some reported.

A woman who was among the Trump supporters in the Capitol was shot by police and later died, and at least 14 law enforcement officers were injured during the takeover of the building, according to press reports.

Extremist supporters of President Donald Trump climb on walls at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Jan. 6, 2021, during a protest against Congress certifying the 2020 presidential election. CNS photo/Stephanie Keith, Reuters

Videos of the shooting show Ashli Babbitt, 35, of San Diego, wearing a Trump flag as a cape, trying to crawl through a broken window, flanked by other protestors, when a single shot rang out. Babbitt fell to the floor bleeding from an apparent neck wound, according to press reports.

U.S. Capitol police said protesters were forcing their way toward the House Chamber where members of Congress where sheltering in place when the shooting occurred. Babbit later died at a hospital, according to press reports.

Three other people died in the area around the Capitol “from separate medical emergencies,” Washington police reported, and more than 60 arrests were made.

After several hours, police were able to clear the Capitol, and Congress returned to complete the certification of the election results. The results were certified early Thursday morning after several Republican representatives and senators filed objections to the results from several states, which were ultimately rejected.

News reports also said explosive devices were found at the national offices for the Republican and Democratic parties.

“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” Pence wrote lawmakers in a letter just before a joint session of Congress to tally the Electoral College count, raising Trump’s ire.

Debris litters the floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Jan. 7, 2021, after supporters of Debris litters the floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Jan. 7, 2021, after supporters of President Donald Trump occupied the building. CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

Pence ended the letter with “so help me God.”

Hours earlier, Trump had publicly urged Pence via Twitter to refute congressional certification of the results, even though Biden won the popular as well as the electoral vote.

Biden, who will be sworn in as the next president of the United States on Jan. 20, in a news conference hours after the chaos began, told Trump to go on national television, fulfill his oath “and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege.”

“It’s not protest; it’s insurrection,” he said.

Those in the United States were not the only ones watching the unfolding scenes, the president-elect said in a speech directed at appealing to Trump. He said democracy was fragile and in the United States, it was “under unprecedented assault.”

“Think what our children watching television are thinking. Think about the rest of the world is looking at,” he said.

In the hours after the initial chaos unfolded, the Biden transition team gathered religious leaders from around the country to pray for healing in a Zoom call. The prayers offered by leaders and those joining in on the chat called for peace and justice and for a renewed strength in the midst of this dark time.