USCCB president, Texas bishops decry massive shooting at Texas Baptist church

by Catholic News Service

11/6/2017

Law enforcement officers stand near the scene of a mass shooting Nov. 5 at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A  lone gunman entered the church during Sunday services taking the lives of at least 26 people and injuring several more. (CNS photo/Mohammad Khursheed, Reuters)

 

Editor's Note: This article includes reporting by North Texas Catholic staff. For a statement on providing a safe environment for worshipers in the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, please click here.

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. Catholic Church stands "in unity" with the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and the larger community after a shooting during Sunday services took the lives of at least 26 people and injured at least 20 others.

Those who died ranged in age from 5 to 72 years old, and included 14-year-old Annabelle Pomeroy. Her father, Frank Pomeroy, is pastor of the church but he was not at the service.

"We stand in unity with you in this time of terrible tragedy — as you stand on holy ground, ground marred today by horrific violence," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

With San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, "I extend my prayers and the prayers of my brother bishops for the victims, the families, the first responders, our Baptist brothers and sisters, indeed the whole community of Sutherland Springs."

"The Catholic Church in Texas and across the United States is with you," he added.

Bishop Michael Olson of the Diocese of Fort Worth asked faithful to join him in prayer for the victims of the Sutherland Springs shooting.

"I am asking Catholics of the Diocese of Fort Worth and people of good will to join with me in praying for those killed and wounded and their surviving families, their friends and neighbors, and for the perpetrator’s family traumatized by this sinful act of hatred," he said. "Let’s pray also for the first responders and those who came to their aid in the face of this grave injustice.

"Besides prayer, I’d also ask for our concerted and renewed efforts to promote greater respect for the integrity of law as necessary for the common good and peace of our society," he continued. "As Blessed Pope Paul VI stated on the World Day of Peace on January 1, 1972, 'If you want peace, work for justice.' We must not let violent and evil actions deter us from our moral obligation and right to gather as people of faith to worship God in peace and charity for all."

Law enforcement officials told CNN that a lone gunman entered the church at about 11:30 a.m. CST while 50 people were attending Sunday services. Almost everyone in the congregation was shot. Sutherland Springs is 30 to 40 miles southeast of San Antonio.

A woman prays during a candlelight vigil after a mass shooting Nov. 5 at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. (CNS photo/Sergio Flores, Reuters) 

Two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press the suspect was Devin Kelley, described as a white male in his 20s. He parked at a gas station across the street from the church, crossed the street, and allegedly began firing as he walked toward the church and then continued firing once inside. He was wearing black tactical-type gear and used an assault weapon, AP said.

After he left the church, he was confronted by a local resident who had a rifle "and engaged the suspect," AP said, quoting Freeman Martin, who is with the Texas Department of Public Safety. The suspect was later found dead in his vehicle some distance away. It was not clear if he died from a self-inflicted gunshot or from wounds suffered when the resident shot him.

His motive was not immediately known. He had been in the Air Force but was discharged for bad conduct allegedly for domestic abuse and served a 12 month sentence in confinement after being court-martialed in 2012.

"We ask the Lord for healing of those injured, his loving care of those who have died, and the consolation of their families," Cardinal DiNardo said. "This incomprehensibly tragic event joins an ever-growing list of mass shootings, some of which were also at churches while people were worshipping and at prayer," he continued.

"We must come to the firm determination that there is a fundamental problem in our society. "A culture of life cannot tolerate, and must prevent, senseless gun violence in all its forms. May the Lord, who himself is peace, send us his spirit of charity and nonviolence to nurture his peace among us all," the cardinal said.

On Monday, the Catholic bishops of Texas called for peace and a greater respect for the dignity of human life.

"We must pray for wisdom and courage, to do what we can to stand against violence and for life," they said in a statement. "With charity and peace in our hearts, we must firmly resolve to prevent senseless violence. Otherwise, we make a mockery of our professed desire to build a culture of life and to renounce this world’s culture of death."

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. Catholic Church stands "in unity" with the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and the larger community after a shooting during Sunday services took the lives of at least 26 people and injured at least 20 others.

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