Pope Francis joined Catholic Church leaders expressing sorrow after back-to-back mass shootings in the US left at least 31 dead and dozens injured in Texas and Ohio last weekend.
After the Angelus in St Peter’s Square on August 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 defenceless people,” he said.
He joined bishops in Texas as well as national Catholic organisations 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 August 3 at a mall in El Paso, Texas, killing at least 22 and injuring more than a dozen people.
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 August 4. The suspected gunman was fatally wounded and police later identified him as 24-year-old Connor Betts, of Bellbrook, Ohio.
On August 4, after the second shooting became public, the president of the US 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 DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, in a statement issued jointly with Bishop Frank 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 said.