Do not let hate, violence ‘have the last word,’ says Las Vegas bishop

Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

LAS VEGAS — At an emotional interfaith prayer service at Guardian Angel Cathedral, Las Vegas Bishop Joseph A. Pepe told those filling the pews Oct. 2 that "in the face of tragedy we need each other."

"And in the face of violence, we stand together because we cannot let hate and violence have the last word," he said in his remarks at the evening service.

"We gather from all faiths and walks of life. We pray and sing and listen to the word of God to remind ourselves that amidst this tragedy, God is with us," Bishop Pepe said. "God cries with our tears."

He quoted the evening Scripture passage from Chapter 29 of the Book of Jeremiah: "'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for well-being, and not for calamity, in order to give you a future and a hope."

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. 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, wrote in a statement Oct. 2.

"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 stated.

"Our hearts go out to everyone," Bishop Pepe of Las Vegas wrote in a statement earlier in the day. "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.

"I am struck by the signs of goodness even in the face of violence. I think about the first responders who risked their own lives to save the lives of others," Bishop Pepe said in his remarks at the cathedral. "I think of the emergency medical personnel and hospital staff members who answered the call for well-being and a future by using their skills to save lives. And, I am reminded that the many individuals, who rendered aid, gave rides and helped each other.

In a telegram to Bishop Pepe, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, stated 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 stated.

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, Nev., 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 alone 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."

"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."

"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 F. Stika of Knoxville, Tenn. 

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