Pope Francis joins prayers for victims of bloody weekend in U.S.

By Rhina Guidos
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Pope Francis joined Catholic Church leaders expressing sorrow after back-to-back mass shootings in the United States left at least 29 dead and dozens injured in Texas and Ohio Aug. 3 and 4.
After the prayer called the Angelus in St Peter’s Square on Aug. 4, the pope said he wanted to convey his spiritual closeness to the victims, the wounded and the families affected by the attacks. He also included those who died a weekend earlier during a shooting at a festival in Gilroy, California.
“I am spiritually close to the victims of the episodes of violence that these days have bloodied Texas, California and Ohio, in the United States, affecting defenseless people,” he said.
He joined bishops in Texas as well as national Catholic organizations and leaders reacting to a bloody first weekend of August, which produced the eighth deadliest gun violence attack in the country after a gunman opened fire in the morning of Aug. 3 at a mall in El Paso, Texas, killing 20 and injuring more than a dozen people.

Shoppers exit with their hands up after a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, Aug. 3, 2019. In Aug 3 tweets, the Catholic dioceses of El Paso, Texas and neighboring Las Cruces, New Mexico asked for prayers for everyone involved at this difficult time. (CNS photo/Jorge Salgado, Reuters)

Less than 24 hours after the El Paso shooting, authorities in Dayton, Ohio, reported at least nine dead and more than a dozen injured after a gunman opened fire on a crowd at or near a bar in the early hours of Aug. 4. The suspected gunman was fatally wounded and police later identified him as 24-year-old Connor Betts, of Bellbrook, Ohio.
On Aug. 4, after the second shooting become public, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairman of the bishops’ domestic policy committee offered prayers, condolences and urged action.
“The lives lost this weekend confront us with a terrible truth. We can never again believe that mass shootings are an isolated exception. They are an epidemic against life that we must, in justice, face,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, in a statement issued jointly with Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
“God’s mercy and wisdom compel us to move toward preventative action. We encourage all Catholics to increased prayer and sacrifice for healing and the end of these shootings. We encourage Catholics to pray and raise their voices for needed changes to our national policy and national culture as well,” the statement continued.
In the shooting in El Paso, police arrested 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, of Allen, Texas. Several news organizations said local and federal authorities are investigating whether the shooting was a possible hate crime since the suspected gunman may be linked to a manifesto that speaks of the “Hispanic invasion” of Texas.
On its website, the Diocese of El Paso announced Aug. 4 that Masses would take place as scheduled on Sunday but canceled “out of an abundance of caution” a festival-like celebration called a “kermess,” which is popular among Catholic Latino populations, that was scheduled to take place at Our Lady of the Light Church.
The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas posted a prayer on their website called “Let the shooting end.” They called on lawmakers to enact guns laws “to protect all in our society.”
Immediately after the news of the El Paso shooting, they tweeted: “Our hearts break for the families of those killed and wounded in today’s mass shooting in El Paso. A school, a movie theater, a church, a shopping mall: All places where we should feel safe, all places that have experienced senseless tragedy because of guns.”
Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Dewane said in their Aug. 4 statement that the bishops’ conference has long advocated for responsible gun laws and increased resources for addressing the root causes of violence and called upon the president and congress to set aside political interests “and find ways to better protect innocent life.”

Love of God, love of neighbor are tied together

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Praying that Catholics would understand and act on “the inseparable bond” between love of God and love of neighbor, Pope Francis again appealed for a solution to the crisis in Venezuela.
“We pray that the Lord will inspire and enlighten the parties in conflict so that as soon as possible they arrive at an agreement that puts an end to the suffering of the people for the good of the country and the entire region,” the pope said July 14 after reciting the Angelus prayer.
In early June, the U.N. Refugee Agency reported that the number of Venezuelans who had fled the violence, extreme poverty and lack of medicines in their country had reached 4 million since 2015.
In his main Angelus talk, commenting on the Sunday Gospel reading of the story of the good Samaritan, Pope Francis said it teaches that “compassion is the benchmark” of Christianity.

Venezuelan children in La Paz, Bolivia, play with toys next to the Chilean consulate July 1, 2019, while their parents wait for migration documents. Praying that Catholics would understand and act on “the inseparable bond” between love of God and love of neighbor, Pope Francis again appealed for a solution to the crisis in Venezuela after reciting the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican July 14. (CNS photo/David Mercado, Reuters)


Jesus’ story about the Samaritan stopping to help a man who had been robbed and beaten after a priest and Levite just walked by, “makes us understand that we, without our criteria, are not the ones who decide who is our neighbor and who isn’t,” the pope said.
Rather, he said, it is the person in need who identifies the neighbor, finding it in the person who has compassion and stops to help.
“Being able to have compassion; this is the key,” the pope said. “If you stand before a person in need and don’t feel compassion, if your heart is not moved, that means something is wrong. Be attentive.”
“If you are walking down the street and see a homeless person lying there and you pass without looking at him or you think, ‘That’s the wine. He’s a drunk,’ ask yourself if your heart has not become rigid, if your heart has not become ice,” the pope said.
Jesus’ command to be like the good Samaritan, he said, “indicates that mercy toward a human being in need is the true face of love. And that is how you become true disciples of Jesus and show others the Father’s face.”