Pope Francis prayed for those affected by a deadly attack inside a Pittsburgh synagogue, calling it an act of inhumane violence.
“We are all hurt by this inhumane act of violence,” the Pope said Oct. 28, the day after a gunman, shouting anti-Semitic insults, killed 11 people, ages 54 to 97, in the Tree of Life synagogue.
“May the Lord help us extinguish the fires of hatred that develop in our society,” the Pope prayed after reciting the Angelus prayer.
In Jefferson City, Bishop W. Shawn McKnight urged the people of this diocese to join him offering prayers and condolences.
“We mourn with our Jewish sisters and brothers the loss of life at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh,” he stated the day of the shooting.
“A synagogue, indeed any place of worship, should be a sanctuary, a safe place for people to gather and to worship without fear or retribution,” he said.
He called upon all people of faith and good will to work together “to address the causes of violence and to ensure our communities are not just safe, but welcoming and embracing all of God’s people.”
Bishop McKnight directed parishes throughout the diocese to offer the following prayer in the General Intercessions at Mass:
“We pray for those affected by the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue: the dead, the wounded, those who loved them, the members of the congregation, the first responders, the residents of Squirrel Hill. May all know God’s tender mercy, especially through the care and compassion expressed by the community around them.”
Pope Francis prayed that God would help people strengthen their “sense of humanity, their respect for life, moral and civic values and the holy fear of God, Who is Love and the Father of everyone.”
11 dead, six injured
Authorities have described this as the deadliest rampage ever against the Jewish community in the United States.
There were 11 fatalities, all adults. Six others were injured, including four members of law enforcement.
The shooting occurred during a morning baby-naming ceremony, for which an estimated crowd of 45 to 100 people had gathered, according to news reports.
The gunman, later identified as a 46-year-old Pittsburgh man named Robert Bowers, allegedly shouted that “all Jews must die” as he stormed the synagogue in the Squirrel Hill section of the city.
Once inside he began shooting. Police said he was armed with three handguns and an AR-15 “style” weapon.
He is believed to have acted alone.
Bowers was apprehended by local law enforcement after exchanging gunfire with police outside the synagogue, following his shooting spree inside.
He was hospitalized for injuries he sustained, which required surgery, according to Jones. He said Bowers remained in the hospital in fair condition and was under guard.
“Our common humanity”
The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reiterated that the bishops stand with “our brothers and sisters of the Jewish community.”
“We condemn all acts of violence and hate and yet again, call on our nation and public officials to confront the plague of gun violence,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.
“Violence as a response to political, racial or religious differences must be confronted with all possible effort. God asks nothing less of us,” he said. “He begs us back to our common humanity as His sons and daughters.”
Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik denounced the shooting and said the entire Pittsburgh community is devastated. The relationship between the Catholic diocese and the synagogue, he said, has been “close over many years.”
In a statement to the media, he said: “May God free us from fear and hatred, and sow peace in our lives, our communities and in the world. ... My heart and prayers are especially lifted up for our Jewish sisters and brothers and the law enforcement officers who rushed into harm’s way.”
Prayer, loving one’s neighbor and working to end bigotry must be the response to the hatred shown by the shooting, he said.
“Anti-Jewish bigotry, and all religious and ethnic bigotry, is a terrible sin,” he said. “As we pray for peace in our communities and comfort for the grieving, we must put prayer into action by loving our neighbors and working to make ‘Never again!’ a reality.”
Hatred and bigotry must end
Bishop Zubik said his prayers and those of the entire diocese go out to those killed and injured, “including the first responders who risked their lives trying to save others. We will also pray for the loved ones of these victims and for all of our brothers and sisters in the Jewish community.”
“People of faith should be able to worship God in peace and security. Our sacred places should be free of all violence,” Bishop Edward C. Malesic of the Diocese of Greensburg, Pennsylvania said. “May we find a way to respect the lives of one another without resorting to such brutality. We will continue to work for an end to hatred and bigotry of any kind.”
The chairman of the USCCB Committee for Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs called the attack is “a cowardly act” that must “be condemned by all Americans.”
“Those killed and injured represent the best of who we are: people of faith gathered to pray and celebrate the birth of a child and officers responding to the ensuring violence with no concern for their own safety,” Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania, said in a statement Oct. 28.
He said the committee “stands with our Jewish brothers and sisters during this time of great distress. May God grant peace to the dead, healing to the injured, and comfort to the families of those hurt and killed and to all the Jewish community.”