USCCB president, pope call for prayers after ‘unspeakable terror’

| October 2, 2017 | 6 Comments

A body is covered with a sheet in the intersection of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard South after an Oct. 1 mass shooting at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. A gunman perched high on the 32nd floor of a casino hotel unleashed a shower of bullets on an outdoor country music festival below, killing at least 50 people and wounding hundreds, making it the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. CNS photo/Steve Marcus, Las Vegas Sun


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.

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.

A police officer stands in front of the Tropicana hotel-casino in Las Vegas Oct. 2 after a mass shooting at a music festival. A gunman perched high on the 32nd floor of a hotel unleashed a shower of bullets late Oct. 1 on an outdoor country music festival below, killing more than 50 people and wounding hundreds, making it the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. CNS photo/Steve Marcus, Las Vegas Sun

“Our hearts go out to everyone,” Bishop Joseph 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.

Police and medical workers stage operations in the intersection of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard South after an Oct. 1 mass shooting at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. A gunman perched high on the 32nd floor of a casino hotel unleashed a shower of bullets on an outdoor country music festival below, killing at least 50 people and wounding hundreds, making it the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. CNS photo/Steve Marcus, Las Vegas Sun

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 Gregory.

“Jesus is weeping with us and for us,” said Pittsburgh Bishop David 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 Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee.

Bishop Edward Malesic of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, 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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  • Charles C.

    “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.'”

    I wish the Pope, bishops, politicians, and commentators would stop describing things like this as “senseless” tragedies. If they were truly senseless, they wouldn’t happen. They make perfect sense to the person doing the killing. The question is whether we want to make the effort to understand and admit the sense behind these attacks.

    Often, the reasoning is obvious but we don’t care to admit it. A little over a year ago, in Orlando, 49 people were killed and 58 wounded at the Pulse nightclub. Why did Omar Mateen kill those people?

    “In a 9-1-1 call shortly after the shooting began, Mateen swore allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi”

    In the final analysis, those people were killed because Mateen believed his religion told him to. Europe’s terrorist attacks have, in the vast majority of cases, the same root cause.

    Or, perhaps, the violence which many prefer to ignore with a shrug of the shoulders and the dismissive, “It makes no sense, there’s no reason to think about it, it’s just random,” stems from the belief that a political agenda can be advanced by violence. Violence makes sense to Black Lives Matter and antifa, only cowardice prevents us from understanding their thinking.

    Even in the minds of people distorted by mental illness there is a reason for their actions. We should discover and admit as many of those reasons as we can, then decide whether we care enough to do anything about them.

    The people who want to confiscate all guns eventually, have surrendered to intellectual and political laziness. By saying that it’s all senseless, they take the human out of the equation leaving only the gun. But if they really believed that getting rid of the gun would save lives and that saving lives is important enough to warrant removing Constitutional rights, we’d better hope that they don’t notice all of the European attacks conducted by driving trucks into people.

    Yes, those attacks have been labelled “senseless” as well. Better buy your truck while you can. I can see the bumper sticker now, “They can have my keys when they pry them from my cold, dead, fingers.”

  • Charles C.

    Oh, this has already brought about calls for unspecified new gun control laws. Remember that the person believed to be the killer had no criminal or mental health record. He was never in the military and all reports indicate he had money to spare. What law is being proposed?

    Also remember the interesting statistics that White suicide (18,457) plus Black homicide (6,503) equals over 70% of the annual gun deaths in the country. Basically, that’s Whites killing themselves and Blacks killing each other.

    Children of all races, under 15, account for 1.3% of the firearms deaths, and half of those are homicides (221).

    Sixty-five percent of gun deaths are either suicide (21,058), undetermined (269), or accident (546).

  • Dominic Deus

    Prayer is not enough. In fact, it’s an excuse. “Put it in God’s hands…”. No, human hands have created, marketed and sold this monstrosity and human hands can stop it.

    What is needed is legislation.

    Weapons of war have no place in civil society. The super-abundance of them is what drives these horrific mass murders. For the few, the angry, the rage-filled, the uncomprehending few, there is ready access to explosive, deadly power, controlled by the twitch of a finger. Having the power of life or death as close as the nearest gun dealer or, worse yet, in the hall closet, is armageddon waiting to happen. When was this knowledge lost to the American public?

    Our military understands this perfectly. Weapons of war are secured in armories, bunkers, fortresses, under guard, underground, behind fencing and locked in vaults, secured in steel racks, and that is just the start. The military knows that when those weapons are issued and armed, there will inevitably be casualties, some by accident, others by poor judgment and some that occur at the hands of intentional shooters who want the God power, even if it’s just for a few seconds, even if they know they will die, even if they know others will die. It’s the dark side of humanity. If you don’t know it exists, you are a fool. And it’s true, you cannot legislate it away.

    But you can legislate away the guns. The weapons of war guns.

    They are to many, to easy to obtain, to easy to use. Weapons of war cannot be transformed into consumer products. They aren’t meant for that. They are meant to kill human beings when the higher, better faculties of human beings have failed to prevent war. Human beings do that–fail and then go to war over it.

    That’s what mass murderers do. They fail in their best human qualities and then go to war over it in the classroom, in the church, in the town square. They want to taste the God moment and then die. We as a society, have made sure they have the gun.

    • Charles C.

      “Weapons of War???” Oh, come on, tone down the rhetoric. I admire your skillful use of language, but it’s in service of a lie. Not an intentional lie that you’re telling, but false information you’ve come to believe.

      No American soldier goes to battle carrying what you describe as a “Weapon of War.” Soldiers carry rifles which can fire automatic, which means the weapon is made with the option of spitting out bullets as long as the trigger is pulled. People aren’t being murdered with those things in this country. They are not a problem.

      If you want to ban rifles which can fire more than one round before a second is inserted by hand, you are objecting to the existence of most of the rifles in this country, the ones used for target shooting, hunting, collecting, and home defense.

      If you want to amend the Constitution to eliminate a fundamental right in order to solve a problem, then I suppose you want to get rid of the Fourth Amendment because criminals get off on evidence technicalities then go on to commit more crimes, or the First Amendment because people are really hurt by hate speech, some claim that it causes suicides and murders.

      The Las Vegas shooting involved a whole bunch of bullets. Some of that was because a second shooter has been arrested (two people shoot twice as fast as one), and some was from the use of a “bump stock.”

      A bump stock is an add-on which can be purchased and used to modify the firing cycle. Gun dealers report that they almost never sell them, very few people even knew of them.

      If it’s the bump stock you’re objecting to, go complain to Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, which looked at them in 2010 and decided not to regulate them. Also complain to Obama and the Democrat controlled congress which never tried to get bump stocks banned or controlled through legislation.

      And it’s important to understand the facts and the scope of the problem. The Congressional Research Service in 2012 estimated that there were 110,000,000 rifles owned by civilians. Last year there were 374 murders committed by rifle shooters.

      For every murder by rifle there were:
      1.26 committed by blunt object
      1.75 committed by hands or feet
      4.29 committed by a knife or blade
      19.00 committed by handgun

      I understand that Las Vegas was terrible, evil, and any other word you want to use, except “preventable.” I also understand that many people are extremely sensitive to suffering and death, and will do anything to prevent it. But as you say, you can’t legislate the evil side of humanity. People will find a way to exercise that evil by killing many people at once. Despite what you believe, that can’t be legislated away either.

      Eighty-six people were killed by an Islamic terrorist using a truck to attack a crowd at last year’s Bastille Day celebration in France. One attack. Twenty-seven more bodies than in Las Vegas. Priorities?

      Besides, your gun ban probably won’t help. Australia tried it; they’re the example people look to when they discuss confiscating Americans’ guns.

      “In 2002 — five years after enacting its gun ban — the Australian Bureau of
      Criminology acknowledged there is no correlation between gun control and
      the use of firearms in violent crime. In fact, the percent of murders committed with a firearm was the highest it had ever been in 2006 (16.3 percent), says the D.C. Examiner.

      “Even Australia’s Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research acknowledges
      that the gun ban had no significant impact on the amount of gun-involved crime:

      “Moreover, Australia and the United States — where no gun-ban exists — both experienced similar decreases in murder rates:

      “Between 1995 and 2007, Australia saw a 31.9 percent decrease; without a gun ban, America’s rate dropped 31.7 percent.

      “During the same time period,. . . [o]verall, Australia’s violent crime rate rose 42.2 percent. At the same time, U.S. violent crime decreased 31.8 percent.”

  • Dominic Deus

    Charles–thank you for all the time you put into this.

    It’s not about statistics It’s about the nature of evil.

    I re-read my analysis–which I have posted several times before–and I have to say I stand by every word. Weapons of War they are and it is the guns themselves that appeal to the minds of men (literally men) that have come unhinged from their sense of shared humanity, love, kindness, strength, compassion, self-sacrifice and protectiveness that are the benchmarks of true manhood.

    I refuse to deny their humanity but I hold that they have denied it, or possibly forsaken it, for the”god power” they want to command, if only for a second. With the twitch of their finger, some die and others are allowed to live. They become the Dark angel of Death. They believe what they are doing is right and just or, at the very least, a sacrifice that must be made for a dimly perceived greater good. They believe that to have the power of god, one must necessarily be closer to god. Once they have pulled the trigger and felt the god-power, they will not surrender it because they are above human law or even human life. So they kill themselves. It’s actually quite simple.

    There is darkness in the human soul just as there is light. There is evil in the world as well as good. Weapons of war, by their nature and creation are somewhere in the shared boundary between darkness and light, evil and good. Believe me, I know.** When men are given a weapon of war and told how it is used to kill human beings, they become fascinated with the idea. Quite frankly when we train them to fight in war, we take advantage of this to make them better soldiers and more willing to fight and kill the enemy. Their connection with their previous morality of “Thou shalt not kill,” becomes abridged and, in time, they become willing to pull that trigger. Usually, they feel bad about it. Sometimes something else happens.

    Fascination becomes obsession and they live to pull that trigger again and again. War is a fundamentally immoral exercise we try to justify by invoking necessity, self-defense, God and Country and all that does offer some consolation, some protection from the fundamental horror of war to those who must actually fight it. But at its core, war is always a deal with the Devil. How much of your humanity are you willing to give up save the rest of it? That’s the equation in war. Most men, even young men make their calculation then live with it–for the rest of their lives.

    But what if you are not at war? Well, then you personally have no need for weapons of war. Your Army has them and knows how to keep them secure. So do your Marines, your Navy, your Air Force, but not you. You need your grandfather’s shotgun to hunt ducks or you dad’s deer rifle–sporting arms. Incidentally, you can defend yourself, your family and home with them but that rarely happens.You personally are like Daniel Boone, not the Continental Army.

    If, however, you are a gun manufacturer, and men are still making do quite well with family owned and inherited guns, how do you sell more guns? Well, you create a propaganda war and you put out the word that men need to arm themselves to fight the wars at home–the race war, the religious war, the crime war, the foreigners-who-want-your-job war, the immigrant war, the feminist war, the manhood warned–and this the big one-the war against your own government war. Naturally, to fight all these wars you need guns and lots of them.
    The civilian arms manufacturers are more than happy to make you a gun that looks like and feels like the real guns that real soldiers use and that work almost as well at killing people. Then, the secondary market people will make you a “bump stock” so your gun fires so fast it can hit many, many enemies in a short time, killing efficiently. You know who I’m referring to as enemies; co-workers, club dancers, concert goers and, of course, first and second graders.

    Obviously, no responsible persons would do such thing but what about the Darkness, the Evil, no matter how few, the ones who are not fascinated but obsessed. They are out there remember, but until now they could not get the weapons of war. They could not actually think of a realistic way to get there hands on the right guns, to actually place their finger on the trigger and realize the god-power was only a twitch away.

    Now they can and some of them will, and we gave them the guns. Its only a matter of time until the next one crosses over to become a Dark Angel of Death. So many guns, you say, and so few shooters. Well, yes, that’s how it works. One Angel of Death can get a lot done with the right gun.

    So, prayer is not enough. Call your legislator.

  • Dominic Deus

    Charles–my apologies. I failed to acknowledge your analysis that the talk about “senseless” killings is utterly and completely wrong and provides and easy way out for people too lazy to do some hard thinking. You also point out it is not criminals who do this–most shooters have no criminal record. It is not mental illness–millions of people suffer from mental illness, some severe some very mild. Only tiny numbers of those persons commit violent crime and virtually none become mass shooters.