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Prayers after ‘unspeakable terror’ in Las Vegas

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WASHINGTON — The nation has experienced “yet another night filled with unspeakable terror,” and “we need to pray and to take care of those who are suffering,” said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington.

In Las Vegas, a gunman identified by law enforcement officials as Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, was perched in a room on the 32nd floor of a hotel and unleashed a shower of bullets late Oct. 1 on an outdoor country music festival taking place below. The crowd at the event numbered more than 22,000.

People mourn during an interfaith memorial service Oct. 2 in Las Vegas for victims of a shooting spree directed at an outdoor country music festival late Oct. 1. A gunman perched in a room on the 32nd floor of a casino hotel unleashed a shower of bullets on the festival below, killing at least 59 people and wounding another 527. (CNS photo/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)

He killed at least 59 people and wounded more than 500, making it by all accounts “the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history,” Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, said in an Oct. 2 statement.

“My heart and my prayers, and those of my brother bishops and all the members of the church, go out to the victims of this tragedy and to the city of Las Vegas,” he said.

“Our hearts go out to everyone,” Bishop Joseph A. Pepe of Las Vegas said in a statement. “We are praying for those who have been injured, those who have lost their lives, for the medical personnel and first responders who, with bravery and self-sacrifice, have helped so many.

“We are also very heartened by the stories of all who helped each other in this time of crisis. As the Gospel reminds us, we are called to be modern-day good Samaritans,” he added. “We continue to pray for all in Las Vegas and around the world whose lives are shattered by the events of daily violence.”

He said an early evening interfaith prayer service was to take place at the city’s Cathedral of the Guardian Angels and he invited “our sisters and brothers around the world to join us in prayer for healing and for an end to violence.”

In a telegram to Bishop Pepe, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said Pope Francis was “deeply saddened to learn of the shooting in Las Vegas” and “sends the assurance of his spiritual closeness to all those affected by this senseless tragedy.’

“He commends the efforts of the police and emergency service personnel, and offers the promise of his prayers for the injured and for all who have died, entrusting them to the merciful love of Almighty God,” the cardinal said.

The barrage of shots came from a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino complex on the Las Vegas Strip. Once police officers determined where the gunshots were coming from, they stormed the room to find the suspect dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters.

The suspect later identified as Paddock was from Mesquite, Nevada, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, and was described in later reports as a retired accountant. News reports also said law enforcement believed the suspect was a “lone wolf” in planning and carrying out the attack.

In his statement, Cardinal DiNardo said: “At this time, we need to pray and to take care of those who are suffering. In the end, the only response is to do good, for no matter what the darkness, it will never overcome the light. May the Lord of all gentleness surround all those who are suffering from this evil, and for those who have been killed we pray, eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.”

Catholic bishops and other Catholic leaders around the country issued statements expressing sadness at the horrific developments in Las Vegas, offering prayers for the victims and praising first responders, volunteers and bystanders for their efforts at the scene.

“Once again we must reach out in shock and horror to comfort the victims of a mass shooting in our country,” said Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago.

“We reaffirm our commitment to nonviolence and to addressing the causes of such tragedies. At this time we come together in prayer and also in resolve to change a culture that has allowed such events to become commonplace,” he said. “We must not become numb to these mass shootings or to the deadly violence that occurs on our streets month in and month out.”

He called for better access to mental health care and “stronger, sensible gun control laws.”

“We pray that there comes a day when the senseless violence that has plagued the nation for so long ends for good,” said Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame. The bells of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus were to ring in the afternoon for all those affected by the Las Vegas tragedy.

The Catholic University of America in Washington offered prayers and support for the shooting victims. It also announced campus counselors and campus ministry staff were available to students needing help dealing with the deadly events, and said the employee assistance program was available to faculty and staff for the same purpose.

“As a community of faith, our university offers its prayers for the victims and their families, the first responders, and the health care workers who are caring for the injured,” said John Garvey, the university’s president. He added, “I ask that we meet this moment by cultivating peace with our words and deeds in our own community.”

The Archdiocese of Detroit held a noon service at St. Aloysius Church to pray for the victims of the shooting, their families and all affected, and also to pray “for an end to such devastating violence in our country and around the world.”

“Violence has once again horrified us as a nation and drawn us together in sorrow. All of us, people of faith as well as those with no particular religious affiliation, are stunned by the tragic, senseless, and incomprehensible loss of life in Las Vegas,” said Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory.

“Jesus is weeping with us and for us,” said Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik. “It is time for us as a nation to require at least as much from those purchasing guns as we expect from those making application for a driver’s license. Public safety must always come first.”

He called on lawmakers “to make it far more difficult for those with dangerously impaired moral reasoning, criminals and terrorists to make their point with a gun” and, like Cardinal Cupich, urged better access to mental health care “for those who may be prone to violence.”

“Join with me in prayer that we as a nation will seek to build a society in which the right to life is the standard against which all other rights are measured,” he said.

“I pray for the end of the violence and hatred in our nation, and I continue to pray that we follow the truth given to us in Psalms, that we should always trust in Jesus,” said Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee.

Bishop Edward C. Malesic of Greensburg, Pa., noted the “tragic irony” that the mass shooting had taken place on Respect Life Sunday and the beginning of the Catholic Church’s observance of Respect Life Month.

“We can never become numbed to the seemingly endless stream of outrageous crimes that show a lack of respect for our fellow human beings,” the bishop said. “We continue to teach and proclaim that every human person is created in God’s image and has the right to life. … We will continue to pray that the light of God’s love will reach into the darkest places in our nation and our world.”

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‘Unite suffering’ with those grieving victims of shooting, archbishop tells Oregon Catholics

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Catholic News Service

PORTLAND, Ore. — St. Joseph Parish in Roseburg hosted an emotional Mass the evening of Oct. 1 for 10 people who died in a shooting that morning at Umpqua Community College. Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith traveled from Portland for the liturgy.

Authorities in Roseburg, in green rolling hills 180 miles south of Portland, identified the shooter Oct. 2 as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer, but did not give details about him. The names of those he fatally shot had not yet been released. Nine others were wounded.

Women console one another during a candlelit vigil following a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., Oct. 1. (CNS photo/Steve Dipaola, Reuters)

Women console one another during a candlelit vigil following a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., Oct. 1. (CNS photo/Steve Dipaola, Reuters)

FBI investigators say the gunman brought six legally purchased weapons to the small college and was wearing a flak jacket. A witness reports he asked students what their religions were before he began shooting.

One student at the college and the sister of a second student both told news organizations that Mercer 26, told people in classrooms to stand up and declare whether they were Christian. If they responded yes, they were shot in the head. If they answered no or gave some other answer, they were shot elsewhere.

The attack ended when the gunman shot himself on campus.

At a Roseburg news conference Oct. 2, after Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin refused to answer more questions, a foreign reporter called out, “Why does this keep happening in America?”

Portland Archbishop Alexander K. Sample rushed a letter to the people of Roseburg hours after the shooting.

“I am saddened beyond words over the tragedy that has struck your local community,” the archbishop wrote. “Even though I am unable to be physically present with you at this particular moment, know that I am very much united with all of you in spirit and in prayer. We are one body in Christ, and when even one member suffers, we all suffer with them. My heart is indeed very heavy with sorrow as I grieve with all of you.”

The archbishop went on to say he cannot begin to make sense of the tragedy.

“Why such shooting tragedies continue to happen is hard to understand,” he wrote. “Sadly, we live in the midst of a culture that does not value the dignity and sacredness of every human life as it once did.”

The archbishop told Catholics in Roseburg to “unite their suffering” with those directly affected and to pray for healing and strength of those who lost loved ones.

Some of the injured were taken to Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg. More critically injured patients were transferred to PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene. Of those transferred patients, two were in critical condition and one is serious, a PeaceHealth spokeswoman said.

Many Catholic parishes in Oregon are sending what organizers call “Posters of Hope” to St. Joseph Church in Roseburg. Teens have been writing messages of encouragement and love for Roseburg residents.

Comments have come from around the nation.

“There’s another community stunned with grief, and communities across the country forced to relieve their own anguish, and parents across the country who are scared because they know it might have been their families or their children,” President Barack Obama said at the White House Oct. 1.

He added, “It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun. … I’d ask the American people to think about how they can get our government to change these (gun) laws and to save lives and to let young people grow up, and that will require a change of politics.”

“What should have been a sanctuary for education and a symbol of bright futures will now become the latest memorial of victims lost to America’s gun violence epidemic,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

“All of our faith traditions abhor violence, and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon has joined the National Council of Churches in calling for action to prevent gun violence,” said Jan Elfers, interim executive director of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. “Our prayers go out to all whose lives have been impacted by this terrible tragedy; to the victim’s families and friends, and to the entire Roseburg community. We are grateful to those who responded to the emergency and undoubtedly prevented the loss of even more lives.”

“Mass shootings like this happen too often and Oregon has not been immune,” said the Rev. Chuck Currie, director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality and University Chaplain at Pacific University in Oregon. “Today we offer our prayers for those killed and injured. We also lift up the families of those impacted. Still, we must also work to take steps that reduce gun violence this day so that there are no more days like this.”

“We pray for the victims and their families, and we call for reasonable gun violence control measures to save more innocent lives from meeting the same tragic ends,” said an Oct. 2 statement by the Jewish Committee on Public Affairs. “What’s more, it appears this crime may have been motivated by anti-Christian bias. Crimes based on prejudice and hatred are deplorable and are anathema to the fundamental values of democracy upon which this nation is founded.”

The statement added, “The overwhelming carnage from the endless stream of mass shootings is utterly unacceptable. Comprehensive and fully enforced gun regulation and violence prevention is needed to restore the safety of our schools, communities, and public spaces. While no single solution will prevent all future tragedies, we are committed to supporting efforts to save lives.”

Pax Christi USA said it “a profoundly sad reality that gun violence … is now so commonplace that it is difficult to remember and recall all of the mass shootings which have taken place in our nation over the past few years.”

“It is time that we shake off our collective lethargy and root ourselves in a deep, sustaining and holy anger which will fuel a movement to end this insanity once and for all,” the statement added.

 

Langlois is a staff writer at the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland. Contributing to this story was Mark Pattison in Washington.

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