Gustavo Garcia-Siller, the Archbishop of San Antonio, has apologized after posting messages to Twitter in which he singled out President Donald Trump following the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. He appeared to publicly accuse the president of being racist.
Garcia-Siller slammed the president for his rhetoric on immigrants, calling him a “poor man” who had damaged people’s lives. The Washington Post reported that in one of the tweets, the Archbishop specifically wrote, “President stop hate and racism, starting with yourself.” The tweets have since been deleted.
Garcia-Silver shared a video to Facebook on August 6, in which he apologized for focusing his attention on “an individual” rather than on the issues. He did not mention President Trump by name in the video. But he repeated his call to oppose racism and urged parishioners to pray for “peace amidst all of the violence which seems to be overwhelming our society.”
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller Repeated His Criticism Against Racism in the Apology Video
Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio posted the video to the Archdiocese of San Antonio Facebook page hours after tweeting criticism of President Trump. In the tweets, which have since been deleted, he accused the president of fueling division and racism with his rhetoric about an “invasion” of immigrants.
In the apology video, Garcia-Siller began by stating that he felt remorseful for singling out the president but did not mention him by name. “To my parishioners, the wider community, and all the dedicated priests of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, please know it is my ministry to serve your spiritual needs, and to express myself in ways that convey compassion, civility and build up unity. I regret that my recent Tweet remarks were not focused on the issues but on an individual.”
The Archbishop then alluded to the White House: “All individuals have God-given dignity and should be accorded respect and love as children of God, especially in our conversations and interactions. We should be aware of this in our discourse about the Office of the President of the United States, which is due our respect.”
Garcia-Siller then moved on to discuss the recent mass shootings. “This evil makes no sense and will never be fully understood. Disbelief and shock are the overwhelming feelings, and there are no adequate words. There can be no justifiable explanation for such scenes of horror.”
Garcia-Siller repeated his stance that racism is wrong and fuels violence. He stated that “No one has the moral right to make racist statements.” He also quoted a pastoral letter put out by the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church which reads, “Every racist act — every such comment, every joke, every disparaging look as a reaction to the color of skin, ethnicity or place of origin — is a failure to acknowledge another person as a brother or sister, created in the image of God.”
He ended the video by saying, “There is growing fear and harassment, and at times American public discourse uses rhetoric that instigates fear against foreigners, immigrants and refugees.
We must pray for fervently for peace amidst all of the violence which seems to be overwhelming our society. We must be lights in the darkness. Let us further the values of the Kingdom. We do not need more division, but rather, we need to move forward in freedom to discuss these topics more deeply in light of the Gospel.”
2. Archbishop Garcia-Siller Has Called for Gun Control
Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller deleted his Twitter posts in which he directly addressed President Trump. But messages calling out racism remain on his page, including one in which he addressed those “in power.”
On August 4, the Archbishop wrote, “Violence is escalating everywhere. The retoric [sic] and selfishness of many in power has led to destruction and pain. We rise with love, forgiveness and tenderness as we care the wounds of those innocent people affected by hatred, racism and discrimination. Enough, enough and enough.”
Shortly after, Garcia-Siller followed up with a message calling for increased gun control. “Gun control is urgent. More lives wasted in vain. Families suffering. We are suffering. Basta!!!” “Basta” means “Enough” in Italian.
The following day, Garcia-Siller added on Twitter, “Raicism [sic] is a sin. God is offended by this.”
3. Archbishop Garcia-Siller Was Born in Central Mexico & Was the Oldest of 15 Children
Gustavo Garcia-Siller was born in 1956 in the central Mexico city of San Luis Potosí. His official biography states that Garcia-Siller was the oldest of 15 children and spent his childhood “sweeping floors, washing windows among other responsibilities in the family furniture store until he was 16 years old.” The Vision Vocation Network described the family as “lower-middle-class.”
Garcia-Siller has a Master’s degree in Theology and Divinity from St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California. He earned a graduate degree in philosophy from the Instituto de Filosofia in Guadalajara, Mexico. He also as a master’s in psychology from the Jesuit university ITESO.
4. Garcia-Siller Says He Began Considering Becoming a Priest as a Child & Was Ordained in 1984
In an editorial published on the Vision Vocation Network website, Garcia-Siller explained that he began to consider pursuing a religious life as a child, after receiving the Eucharist for the first time. He described having a girlfriend as a young teenager but ultimately decided that he had a stronger calling to become a priest.
His official biography explains that Garcia-Siller began his religious career as a member of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit. It’s a Roman Catholic order of “Priests, permanent deacons, and permanent brothers consecrated to God and to the Church through the vows of poverty, celibate chastity and obedience,” as explained on its website.
Garcia-Siller spent part of his time with the order working in the United States, especially with immigrant communities. He later served leadership roles within the order, including Major Superior and the Provincial. Garcia-Siller was ordained as a priest on June 22, 1984, in Guadalajara, Mexico.
5. Garcia-Siller Became a U.S. Citizen in 1998 & Was Appointed the Archbishop of San Antonio in 2010
Gustavo Garcia-Siller was granted U.S. citizenship on December 15, 1998. According to his official bio, his ministry included time spent at three parishes in the Los Angeles area, a church in Fresno, California, and three years at a parish in Oregon.
Pope John Paul II named Garcia-Siller as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago in 2003. He told the Vision Vocation Network that he initially tried to turn down the appointment when the Pope offered it. But he accepted after praying about it for a weekend.
In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI named Garcia-Siller the Archbishop of San Antonio. He is the sixth person to serve in this role.