Music, art are a gateway to discover God’s greatness

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Liturgical musicians have the unique calling to interpret God’s will and love through song and praise, Pope Francis said.
“Every Christian, in fact, is an interpreter of the will of God in his or her own life, and by his or her life sings a joyful hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God,” the pope said Nov. 9 during a meeting with participants at a Vatican conference on interpreting sacred music.
The conference, titled “Church, Music, Interpreters: A Necessary Dialogue,” was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music and the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm.
Reflecting on the conference theme, the pope said most people think of interpreters as a kind of translator who conveys what “he or she has received in such a way that another person can understand it.”
Although good interpreters in the field of music essentially “translate” what a composer has written, they also should feel “great humility before a work of art that is not their property,” and to “bring out the beauty of the music.”

Organist Johann Vexo of Paris rehearses April 25, 2019, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Liturgical musicians have the unique calling to interpret God’s will and love through song and praise, Pope Francis said Nov. 9 during a meeting with participants at a Vatican conference on interpreting sacred music. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Within the context of the liturgy, he added, music is a way for Christians “to serve others through the works they perform.”
“Every interpreter is called to develop a distinctive sensibility and genius in the service of art which refreshes the human spirit and in service to the community,” the pope said. “This is especially the case if the interpreter carries out a liturgical ministry.”
Pope Francis thanked the participants for their commitment and – citing the words of his predecessor St. Paul VI – said that music ministers have the great task of “grasping treasures from the heavenly realm of the spirit and clothing them in words, colors and forms, thus making them accessible.”
“The artist, the interpreter and – in the case of music – the listener, all have the same desire,” the pope said: “To understand what beauty, music and art allow us to know of God’s grandeur. Now perhaps more than ever, men and women have need of this. Interpreting that reality is essential for today’s world.”

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Arzobispo Gómez, primer Latino, presidente de USCCB

Por Dennis Sadowski
BALTIMORE (CNS) – El arzobispo José H. Gómez de Los Ángeles fue elegido para un mandato de tres años como presidente de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de los Estados Unidos (USCCB) durante la asamblea general de otoño de los obispos en Baltimore.
El nativo de México fue elegido el 12 de noviembre con 176 votos de una lista de 10 nominados.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, right, speaks alongside an unidentified clergyman during a meeting in Rome with U.S. Encuentro representatives Sept. 13, 2019. Encuentro representatives were in Rome to present findings from the Fifth National Encuentro to Pope Francis and Vatican officials. (CNS photo/USCCB)

El arzobispo Gómez, de 67 años, es el primer latino en ser elegido presidente. Se ha desempeñado como vicepresidente de la conferencia durante los últimos tres años, trabajando junto al cardenal Daniel N. DiNardo de Galveston-Houston, el presidente saliente. Su mandato como presidente comienza cuando termina la asamblea.
El prelado de Los Ángeles ha sido uno de los principales defensores de los derechos de los inmigrantes, y a menudo ha expresado su apoyo a los recién llegados a medida que enfrentan las crecientes restricciones implementadas por el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional y otras agencias federales.

Church cannot remain indifferent to cry of the poor

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – After listening to indigenous people and church leaders at the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, the Catholic Church cannot remain indifferent to the suffering of the region’s people, Pope Francis said.
“The cry of the poor, together with that of the earth, came to us from the Amazon,” the pope said during his Sunday Angelus address. “After these three weeks, we cannot pretend that we have not heard it.”
The pope shared his thoughts about the synod Oct. 27 as he greeted pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square; he had just finished celebrating the synod’s final Mass.
The synod, he said, was a time of “a walking together,” engaging in sincere dialogue “without hiding difficulties and “experiencing the beauty of going forward united.”
Pope Francis told the crowd that in the second reading at the day’s Mass, St. Paul, aware of his imminent death, expressed hope that “through me the proclamation might be completed.”
St. Paul’s last wish, the pope said, was not for himself but that the Gospel “be proclaimed to all nations.”
During the synod, he continued, participants reflected on how to open new paths of evangelization.
“We felt spurred on to go out to sea, to leave the comfortable shores of our safe harbors to enter deep waters,” the pope said. “Not into the marshy waters of ideologies, but into the open sea in which the Spirit invites us to throw our nets.”
Before leading pilgrims in reciting the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis prayed for the intercession of Mary, “Queen of the Amazon,” who “became that not by conquering, but by inculturating herself.”
“With the humble courage of a mother, she became the protector of her children, the defense of the oppressed; always going to the culture of the people,” the pope said.
Pope Francis did not specifically mention the statues of the naked pregnant woman that some people referred to as Our Lady of the Amazon, but which Vatican officials repeatedly described as an image signifying life. Others described it as “Pachamama” and condemned it as an idol. Some copies of the statue were thrown in the Tiber River, but recovered by police.
“There is not a standard culture, there is not a pure culture, which purifies the others,” Pope Francis said. “There is the pure Gospel, which is inculturated. To her, who in the poor house of Nazareth took care of Jesus, we entrust the poorest children and our common home.”

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Kindly lights in gloomy world: Pope declares five new saints

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY – Saints are people who recognized their need for God’s help, who took risks to discover God’s will and to help others and who nurtured a habit of thanksgiving, Pope Francis said.
“The culmination of the journey of faith is to live a life of continual thanksgiving. Let us ask ourselves: Do we, as people of faith, live each day as a burden, or as an act of praise?” the pope said in his homily Oct. 13 after formally declaring five new saints for the Catholic Church.
Those canonized at the Mass were: St. John Henry Newman, the British theologian, poet and cardinal who died in 1890; Brazilian St. Maria Rita Lopes Pontes, popularly known as Sister Dulce, who died in 1992; Indian St. Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan, founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family, who died in 1926; St. Marguerite Bays, a Swiss laywoman and mystic, who died in 1879; and St. Josephine Vannini, the Italian co-founder of the Daughters of St. Camillus, who died in 1911.
“Three of them were religious women,” the pope noted in his homily. “They show us that the consecrated life is a journey of love at the existential peripheries of the world.”

Pope Francis celebrates the canonization Mass for five new saints in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Oct. 13, 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“St. Marguerite Bays, on the other hand, was a seamstress; she speaks to us of the power of simple prayer, enduring patience and silent self-giving,” he said.
Rather than describing St. Newman, Pope Francis quoted from him to illustrate the meaning of “the holiness of daily life:” “The Christian has a deep, silent, hidden peace, which the world sees not …. The Christian is cheerful, easy, kind, gentle, courteous, candid, unassuming; has no pretense … with so little that is unusual or striking in his bearing that he may easily be taken at first sight for an ordinary man.”
And, referencing St. Newman’s famous hymn, “Lead, Kindly Light,” the pope prayed that all Christians would be “‘kindly lights’ amid the encircling gloom.”
Tens of thousands of people filled a sunny St. Peter’s Square for the canonization ceremony and Mass. Among them were Britain’s Prince Charles, Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Martins Mourao, a member of Switzerland’s federal council and the deputy foreign minister of India.
Melissa Villalobos from Chicago also was there with her husband and children, and they brought up the offertory gifts at the Mass. Villalobos’ healing, which saved her life and the life of her unborn child, was accepted as the miracle needed for St. Newman’s canonization.
Hours before the Mass began, Holy Family Sisters Manjula and Aruna stood just outside the security checkpoint, handing out Indian flags, rosaries and prayer cards, caps and scarves with the image of their order’s founder, St. Thresia.
The new saint’s focus, and that of her order today, is assisting families, said Sister Manjula, whose ministry is “counseling and visiting houses and helping solve problems. We help all families – non-Christian, non-Catholic, anyone.”
Gregory K. Hillis, a professor of theology at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, was representing his university at the Mass, but his presence was very personal, too.
“Newman is important to me theologically and for my spirituality,” he said. “And I like his conversion story” of how, as an Anglican priest, he became a Catholic at the age of 44. “I became a Catholic 13 years ago, and Newman was an important guide. He converted, but maintained his friendships, his respect and love for the tradition that he left.”
“I’m an ecumenical convert as well,” Hillis said. “I’m tired of converts who hate the tradition they left.”
An official delegation of Anglican bishops and priests also attended the Mass, and Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, leader of the Church of England, recorded a message for the occasion.
“His legacy is far broader than one church or two churches,” the archbishop said. “It is a global legacy, a legacy of hope and truth, of the search for God, of devotion to being part of the people of God.”
St. Newman’s role in founding the Oxford Movement in the Church of England, a push to rediscover the early Christian writers and to recover the Catholic roots of Anglicanism, “had a fundamental, lasting, beneficial and important influence on Anglicanism,” Archbishop Welby said.
As is his custom at Mass, including at canonizations, Pope Francis used his homily to reflect on the day’s Scripture readings and only made passing reference to the people being declared saints.
The day’s short Gospel reading from Luke recounted the story of 10 lepers who, seeing Jesus approach, cry out to him for healing. He tells them to go show themselves to the priests and, as they go, they are healed. But only one returns to thank Jesus.
“Like those lepers,” Pope Francis said, “we, too, need healing, each one of us. We need to be healed of our lack of confidence in ourselves, in life, in the future; we need to be healed of our fears and the vices that enslave us, of our introversion, our addictions and our attachment to games, money, television, mobile phones, to what other people think.”
The story also illustrates how, “on the journey of life, purification takes place along the way, a way that is often uphill since it leads to the heights,” he said. “Faith calls for a journey, a ‘going out’ from ourselves, and it can work wonders if we abandon our comforting certainties, if we leave our safe harbors and our cozy nests.”
And, finally, he said, the story teaches that returning to Jesus with a heart full of gratitude is the culmination of the journey of faith.
“To give thanks is not a question of good manners or etiquette; it is a question of faith,” the pope said. “To say ‘Thank you, Lord’ when we wake up, throughout the day and before going to bed, that is the best way to keep our hearts young.
“This also holds true for families, and between spouses,” he added. “Remember to say thank you. Those words are the simplest and most effective of all.”

Divine intervention: Papal tweet of support for ‘Saints’ goes viral

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – A hashtag mix-up caused a papal tweet meant to give thanks for the Catholic Church’s newest saints to be read as Pope Francis showing support for the New Orleans Saints’ football team.
After the Oct. 13 canonization of five new saints, the pope’s official Twitter account, @Pontifex, tweeted: “Today we give thanks to the Lord for our new #Saints. They walked by faith and now we invoke their intercession.”
However, the Twitter hashtag automatically uploaded a fleur-de-lis, the official logo of the National Football League team. Needless to say, the tweet caught the attention of many Saints’ fans, who interpreted the tweet as invoking divine intervention for their team’s game that day against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Pope Francis, tweeting about the new saints he recognized Oct. 13, inadvertently used a hashtag connected to the New Orleans Saints football team. But fans appreciated it, as did the team. (CNS photo)

“Big Guy telling you something for this afternoon,” a Twitter user said, sharing the pope’s tweet. “Adjust your bets accordingly, Vegas.”
Other fans were elated that Christ’s vicar on earth was in their corner. “Pope Francis told 18 million followers that he was #WhoDatNation. I love it,” another Twitter follower wrote, referring to the New Orleans football team’s “Who Dat” chant.
But the reaction of the day came from the New Orleans Saints’ own Twitter account after their 13-6 victory over the Jaguars.
“Couldn’t lose after this,” the Saints’ account tweeted after sharing the papal tweet. “#Blessed and highly favored.”
A Vatican official confirmed Oct. 14 that use of the hashtag to trigger the “hashflag” – the fleur-de-lis – was a case of “accidental evangelization,” but hoped that “maybe someone who didn’t know will become aware that there are other ‘saints’ to pay attention to.”

Beware of those who want God to live up to their standards

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Too many Christians today are “as long as” Christians, obeying God “as long as” God and the church meet their conditions and criteria for what is acceptable, just and righteous, Pope Francis said.
The “conditions Christian,” Pope Francis said, says things like: “‘I am a Christian as long as things are done this way.’ ‘No, no, these changes aren’t Christian.’ ‘This is heresy.’ ‘This won’t do.’ Christians who place conditions on God, who place conditions on the faith and the action of God.”
Celebrating an early morning Mass Oct. 8 in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the pope focused on the day’s first reading from Jonah, noting how the prophet first refused to do God’s bidding, was swallowed by a whale, obeyed God when given a second chance and ended up angry with God because God did not destroy the city of Ninevah.
Jonah was “stubborn” about what he thought faith was, the pope said. But “the Lord was stubborn in his mercy. He never leaves us. He knocks at the door of our hearts until the end.”
Jonah, the pope said, “is the model of those ‘as long as’ Christians, those Christians with conditions.”
Placing conditions on God and on the church, he said, encloses Christians “in their own ideas and ends up in ideology. It’s the awful journey from faith to ideology. And today there are many people like this.”
Such Christians, he said, are afraid “of growth, of the challenges of life, the challenges of the Lord, the challenges of history” and instead stick to “their first convictions.”

Pope Francis and bishops leave the morning session of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon at the Vatican Oct. 8, 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“They prefer the ideology to faith,” he said, and they move away from the community because “they are afraid to put themselves in God’s hands and prefer to judge everything from the smallness of their hearts.”
The Vatican News report on the pope’s homily included no mention of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon or the controversy surrounding it, including accusations that some of the statements in the synod working document are heretical.
Pope Francis said God’s decision not to carry out his threatened punishment of Ninevah reveals “the Lord who draws near to all realities, who is not disgusted. Things don’t disgust the Lord. Our sins don’t disgust him. He draws near just as he drew near to the lepers and the sick because he came to heal and to save, not to condemn.”

Synod is a time to listen, discern, not despise

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Synod of Bishops for the Amazon is a time of reflection, dialogue and listening to the needs and sufferings of indigenous people, Pope Francis said.
“The Holy Spirit is the primary actor in the synod. Please, do not kick him out of the room,” the pope said, opening the gathering’s first working session Oct. 7.
Speaking off-the-cuff, the pope said he was saddened to hear a “sarcastic” remark from a synod participant about an indigenous man wearing a feathered headdress who presented the offertory gifts at the synod’s opening Mass Oct. 6.
“Tell me: What difference is there between having feathers on your head and the three-cornered hat worn by some officials of our dicasteries?” he asked, eliciting applause from synod participants.
Instead of becoming a series of reductive discussions that only undermine “the poetry” of indigenous people and their cultures, he said, the synod is a way for the church to walk with them “under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
The synod was not called to “invent social development programs or museum-like cultural guardianships or pastoral actions in the same noncontemplative style that leads to actions that give counter signs,” the pope said.
“We come to contemplate, to understand, to serve the people, and we do it by following a synodal path,” he said. “We do it within the synod, not in roundtables, not in conferences and hidden discussions. We do it within the synod because a synod is not a parliament.”
The first full day of the synod began with a prayer service in front of the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica with members of indigenous communities standing arm-in-arm with cardinals and bishops singing as they waited for Pope Francis.

People participate in a prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica at the start of the first session of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon at the Vatican Oct. 7, 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

When the pope arrived, he led the invocation of the Holy Spirit’s assistance with the chanting of “Veni, Creator Spiritus” (“Come, Holy Spirit”) before processing with the large group from the basilica to the synod hall.
In his speech, the pope said it was important that the church stand with the people of the Amazon and steer clear of ideologies and “ready-made programs that attempt to ‘discipline’ the Amazonian peoples, discipline their history and their culture.”
Ideologies, he said, are a “dangerous weapon” that can lead the church toward a pretentious attitude that reduces the understanding of indigenous people and their cultures to “categories of ‘isms'” and prejudiced name-calling.
The pope also encouraged synod participants to reflect, to listen with humility and to speak with courage, “even if you are embarrassed.”
Like at the Synod of Bishops on young people last year, he said, there will be a time of silent reflection after every four speeches in the synod hall.
“Someone told me, ‘It’s dangerous, father, because they are going to fall asleep.’ The experience at the synod on young people, where we did this, was the contrary. They usually fell asleep during some of the interventions and would wake up in the silence,” he said, drawing laughter from participants.
Highlighting the importance of responsible journalism in reporting the synod accurately, the pope urged participants to act with prudence when speaking to the press, adding that the synod “can be ruined a bit” by members speaking too freely with reporters.
Pope Francis said this often leads to forming two synods: one inside the Vatican and one outside.
“There is the inside synod that follows the path of Mother Church, of caring for the processes, and the outside synod that, due to information given flippantly and given with imprudence, causes those who inform to commit errors,” the pope said.

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Pope calls on nations to protect lives, dignity of war victims

By Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY – Marking the anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, Pope Francis urged nations to recall the need to protect the life and dignity of the victims of war and armed conflict.
“Everyone is required to observe the limits imposed by international humanitarian law, protecting unarmed populations and civil structures, especially hospitals, schools, places of worship, refugee camps,” he said, after praying the Angelus with visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square Aug. 11.
The pope reminded people that Aug. 12 marked the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, which, he said, were “important international legal instruments that impose limits on the use of force and are aimed at protecting civilians and prisoners in time of war.”
“May this anniversary make states increasingly aware of the indispensable need to protect the life and dignity of victims of armed conflicts,” he said.
“And let us not forget that war and terrorism are always a serious loss for all of humanity. They are the great human defeat!”
The Geneva Conventions of 1949 expanded previous international agreements for the humane treatment of military personnel who were wounded or captured, medical personnel and civilians, by including rules protecting prisoners of war from torture and mistreatment, and providing them with suitable housing, sustenance and oversight by the International Red Cross.
New articles also called for protecting wounded, sick and pregnant civilians as well as mothers and children. Civilians should have access to adequate medical care and must not be collectively deported or made to work by occupying forces without pay.

Christ’s love gives hope to forgotten ones, cardinal says

By Elizabeth Bachmann
WASHINGTON (CNS) – In a world where many are often marginalized and discriminated against, the message of Jesus’ love must continue to be proclaimed, a Vatican official wrote on behalf of Pope Francis.
In a message sent Aug. 16 to the 40th Meeting in Rimini, an annual event sponsored by the Communion and Liberation movement, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said that countless men, women and children, especially those fleeing war and poverty, “are often treated as statistics and numbers” rather than as human beings with faces, names and stories.
The theme of the Aug. 18-24 meeting – “Your name was born from what you gazed upon” – was inspired by a poem written by St. John Paul II which referred to St. Veronica who, according to legend, wiped the face of Christ on his way toward Calvary.
“In an age where people are often faceless, anonymous figures because they have no one to look at, the poetry of St. John Paul II reminds us that we exist because we are connected,” Cardinal Parolin wrote.
Reflecting on the event’s theme, the Vatican secretary of state said that only by “fixing one’s gaze upon Jesus’ face and attaining familiarity with him” can Christians be purified and prepared “to look at everything with new eyes.”

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, is pictured at the Vatican May 11, 2018. In a world where many are often marginalized and discriminated against, the message of Jesus’ love must continue to be proclaimed, Cardinal Parolin wrote on behalf of Pope Francis. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See PAROLIN-RIMINI-MESSAGE Aug. 19, 2019.

“By meeting Jesus, by looking at the son of man, the poor and the simple found themselves, they felt profoundly loved by an immeasurable love,” the cardinal wrote.
This experience, he added, is what makes Christians “a presence in the world that is different from all others” because of their calling to be mirror images of Christ in the world.
“This is the origin of the profound joy that nothing and no one can take away from us: our name is written in the heavens, and not for our merits, but rather because of a gift that each of us has received through baptism. It is a gift that we are called to share with everyone, without exception. This means being missionary disciples,” he wrote.
Conveying Pope Francis’ best wishes for the annual event, Cardinal Parolin expressed the pope’s desire that in celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Rimini meeting “will always be a hospitable place where people can talk face to face.”

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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.”