Bishop in El Paso who kneeled with protesters gets call of encouragement from Pope Francis

EL PASO, Texas — A Catholic bishop in Texas who kneeled with 12 other priests in a show of solidarity and prayer for George Floyd received a special call from Pope Francis on Wednesday.

Mark J. Seitz, 56, who has been bishop in El Paso since July 2013, knelt for 8 minutes, 46 seconds for Floyd, the El Paso Times reported. Floyd died May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin the man’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

The priests prayed with their eyes closed and with masks covering their faces. The held roses and handwritten signs that read “Black Lives Matter,” CNN reported.

With eyes closed, masks covering their faces, white roses in hand and handwritten signs that read “Black Lives Matter,” Seitz and 12 other priests from the Diocese of El Paso knelt in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on Monday.

Wednesday morning around 9:30, Seitz said he received a call on his cellphone from Pope Francis, according to the Catholic News Agency. The pontiff spoke to Seitz in Spanish, the priest said.

“I expressed to the Holy Father that I felt it was imperative to show our solidarity to those who are suffering,” Seitz said in a statement. “I also told him how honored I am to serve the people of the Diocese of El Paso and the Borderland."

Seitz was the first Catholic bishop in the United States to join the protests, according to CNA.

“Frankly, what I did and what I have said is only a very small way to take part in what so many are doing in their peaceful protests,” Seitz told CNN.

Mike Lewis, one of the priests in Seitz’s diocese, said the bishop shared the news of the pope’s surprise call during a weekly Zoom meeting, the Times reported.

“We wanted to make prayerful sign of support for the efforts to eradicate racism and for the protesters who are peacefully trying to bring some attention to this issue that hasn’t gone away, that isn’t going away, and is something we all need work towards,” Lewis told the newspaper.