Home International News N.Y. Rabbi knife attack, Texas church shooting and beheading at a Nigerian...

N.Y. Rabbi knife attack, Texas church shooting and beheading at a Nigerian wedding: Three violent incidents closed out 2019

People gather at Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg's residence in Monsey, N.Y., Dec. 29, 2019. A machete-wielding man attacked the residence during a Hanukkah celebration the night before. (CNS photo/Jeenah Moon, Reuters)

Catholic, Christian, Muslim voices condemn knife attack on N.Y. rabbi

WASHINGTON  — A host of voices from throughout the religious spectrum condemned the Dec. 28 knife attack at the suburban New York City home of a Hasidic rabbi that wounded five, one of them critically.

The suspected attacker was later arrested and held in lieu of $5 million bond.

“Such acts must be condemned completely and without reservation as totally contrary to everything that people of faith stand for,” said a Dec. 29 statement from Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York. “An attack on any individual or group because of his or her religious beliefs is an attack on us all. This hatred has no place in our city, state, or nation, or anywhere else on our planet.”

Cardinal Dolan added that during Mass Dec. 29, he “prayed in a special way in solidarity with the victims of these heinous acts of violence” and urged all people “to come together in a spirit of unity to reject such hatred and bigotry wherever it occurs.”

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit, vice president of the U.S. bishops, in a Dec. 29 statement, voiced his “outrage in learning of the violent attack on a Jewish household in New York during their celebration of Hanukkah.” He added: “We are particularly disturbed that this crime comes as only the latest of such vile acts of anti-Semitism in our nation.”

The archbishop asked pastors in the archdiocese to offer special prayers on Jan. 1, the liturgical feast of Mary, Mother of God, for “the protection of our Jewish brothers and sisters and the eradication of anti-Semitism from our society” and to “reaffirm … that all forms of anti-Semitism are evil and have no place in our community.”

“This past week, which should have been a holy celebration of lights, has been marked with tragedy and violence against our Jewish brothers and sisters,” said a Dec. 29 statement by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York. “We also remember the recent attacks at a Jersey City kosher market that left three dead.”

Bishop DiMarzio added, “Hate like this has no place in a civil society. Today we are reminded it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. Let us be that light as we pray for peace and practice tolerance today and always.”

“This is yet one more reminder to us how important it is to promote a culture of life everywhere,” said Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany, New York, in a Dec. 29 statement. My own faith is one of many that teaches that every human person is to be respected and loved as a child of God, a human being of ultimate moral worth.”

Citing nine anti-Semitic attacks in New York in a nine-day span, Bishop Scharfenberger said, “Such acts must be condemned in the name of God who loves all of humanity and, indeed, humanity itself.”

In a Dec. 30 statement, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago called the attack in Monsey, New York, “an unspeakable act of depravity. This violent act exhibits a level of depravity that many of us believed to be unimaginable.”

The council added, “This creeping religious intolerance gripping our nation can no longer be ignored. … Members of the diverse faiths in the United States must renounce any ideology that seeks to justify violence against any group of people based upon their faith. Fear-mongering must be challenged, and civility must dominate our social interactions.”

“Even as we witness a rising tide of religious hatred and terrorist extremism in our country, we must — with more urgency and vigor — support and defend all people of faith from those who worship nothing but death and destruction,” said a Dec. 30 statement by Archbishop Elpidophoros of the New York-based Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

“Such hateful acts of violence damage us all, and we all have a duty — both civic and religious — to respond with love and compassion for all those afflicted,” Archbishop Elpidophoros added.

In mid-December, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, issued a statement about the Dec. 10 attack at a kosher deli in Jersey City, saying it and other such attacks highlight the need to publicly condemn “any and all forms of anti-Semitism whether in thought, word or action.”

The bishop said the Catholic Church “has an irrevocable commitment to the Jewish community” and acknowledges that “anti-Semitism is anti-Christian and should not be tolerated in any form.”


Texas bishops offer prayers for those affected by fatal church shooting

WASHINGTON — Two Texas Catholic bishops offered words of condolence and prayers to the members and families of the victims of a church shooting in which two worshippers were killed.

Police and fire department officials in White Settlement, Texas, surround West Freeway Church of Christ Dec. 29, 2019. A gunman killed two parishioners there that same day. (CNS photo/Yffy Yossifor, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, TNS,ABACAPRESS.COM via Reuters)

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio and Bishop Edward J. Burns of Dallas said they prayed that sin and evil would not overtake society.

A gunman killed two people Dec. 29 during Sunday services at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, before members of the congregation fatally shot him, authorities said.

Police were called to the church about eight miles west of Fort Worth before 11 a.m. after two members of the church’s volunteer security team opened fire on the gunman, The Dallas Morning News reported.

“My heart goes out to the victims killed and wounded in the shooting this morning” at the church, Archbishop Garcia-Siller said in a statement Dec. 29. “My prayers are with all who were traumatized by this senseless tragedy.

“That this act of violence occurred in a house of worship unfortunately no longer shocks our senses. At this time of bitter division and polarization, we must unite in common purpose and commitment to save our society. We can do no less,” he said.

Bishop Burns offered “heartfelt prayers for those affected by the shootings” in a tweet posted late Dec. 29.

“As people of faith, we know that sin, evil, suffering, and death will not have the last word,” he added.

The names of the victims and the gunman had not been released as of the morning of Dec. 30. But the daughter of one of the victims told KXAS-TV that her father Anton “Tony” Wallace had died.

Tiffany Wallace said she ran to her father after he was shot.

“I was just holding him, telling him I loved him and that he was going to make it,” she said.

Two people were treated at the church for minor head injuries they received as they dived for cover during the shooting, according to Marcara Trusty, spokeswoman for MedStar ambulance service, the newspaper reported.

A recording of the live stream of the service showed a gunman approach a man standing in the back of the church, pull out a long-barrel gun and fire it, striking two worshippers. A member of the church’s security immediately returned one shot, downing the gunman.

The security team member was identified as Jack Wilson, a candidate for Hood County precinct commissioner. Wilson discussed his response in a posting on his campaign’s Facebook page.

“I just want to thank all who have sent their prayers and comments on the events of today. The events at West Freeway Church of Christ put me in a position that I would hope no one would have to be in, but evil exists and I had to take out an active shooter in church,” Wilson wrote in the post.

“I am very sad in the loss of two dear friends and brothers in CHRIST, but evil does exist in this world and I and other members are not going to allow evil to succeed,” he continued, describing himself as head of the church’s security team. “Please pray for all the members and their families in this time. Thank you for your prayers and understanding.”

Law enforcement authorities and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick praised the security team members who stopped the gunman, calling their response “heroic.”

Texas law allows individuals the right to carry concealed weapons in churches.

The FBI said late Dec. 29 that the gunman had had been arrested previously in several communities, but they declined to offer more details about his background. Media reported that the man had roots in the area and that he may have been transient.


Nigerian diocesan spokesman: Bridal party beheaded en route to wedding

LAGOS, Nigeria  — Father Francis Arinse, communications director of the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri, confirmed that a bride-to-be, Martha Bulus, and her bridal party were beheaded Dec. 26 at Gwoza, in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno state.

Macro detail of globe Nigeria, narrow depth of field

Father Arinse told Catholic News Service that Bulus and her companions were traveling from Maiduguri to her Dec. 31 wedding when they were killed.

“They were beheaded by suspected Boko Haram insurgents at Gwoza on their way to her country home,” he told CNS. He added that Bulus used to be his parishioner at St. Augustine Catholic Church, Maiduguri, after he was first ordained.

Father Arinse said there had been a series of abductions in the area recently. He said government agencies must beef up security in northeast Nigeria to prevent a recurrence.

Several international media outlets reported Dec. 26 that the Islamic State group released a video showing it had beheaded 10 Christians and shot an 11th Dec. 26. The news agencies said they were unable to confirm the contents of the video but described the victims as men. IS said the beheadings were payback for the late-October killing of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghadi.

The Tablet: Why Nigeria must do more to stop Christians being murdered

In a related development, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, the Nigerian chief of army staff, ordered the county’s anti-terrorism unit to increase pressure on terrorists.

Speaking Dec. 30, he said the government would provide the needed support to enable them to pursue the war against insurgency and other criminal activities in the country.

Buratai praised the troops for their dealings with Islamic State of West Africa Province terrorists, formerly Boko Haram, in the region.

“I am glad to be here with you because this is one of the areas that have been quite strategic in the operation,” he said.

“You have done great, and I want to commend you for standing firm against all the criminals … Do not give them any breathing space. That means you must go out at all times, day and night, whether rain or sunshine, and make sure you deal with them.

“These criminals want to Balkanize our country and we must not allow it,” he said.


— By Peter Ajayi Dada, Catholic News Service