Pope Francis, U.S. bishops offer prayers after another act of “horrifying evil” in Florida school shooting

Parents wait for news after a reports of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

Pope Francis was “deeply saddened to learn of the tragic shooting” that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, in which 17 people were killed and many more injured, the Vatican said today.

It said the pope “prays that Almighty God may grant eternal rest to the dead and healing and consolation to the wounded and those who grieve.” He assured “all those affected by this devastating attack of his spiritual closeness.”

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The Vatican released the text of a telegram signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, sent on the pope’s behalf to Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami.

Pope Francis was “deeply saddened to learn of the tragic shooting” in which 17 people were killed.

Pope Francis concluded his message by expressing “the hope that such senseless acts of violence may cease” and invoked “the divine blessings of peace and strength” on all touched by the attack. 


Archbishop Wenski urged community members to come together “to support one another in this time of grief.”

“With God’s help, we can remain strong and resolute to resist evil in all its manifestations,” the archbishop said in a statement. “May God heal the brokenhearted and comfort the sorrowing as we once again face as a nation another act of senseless violence and horrifying evil.”

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called for prayer and healing. He urged all unite their “prayers and sacrifices for the healing and consolation” of those affected by the violence in South Florida and for a society “with fewer tragedies caused by senseless gun violence.”

Archbishop Wenski: “May God heal the brokenhearted and comfort the sorrowing as we once again face as a nation.”

Other Catholic leaders also weighed in Thursday, repeating similar refrains that have become common following mass shootings in the United States.

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago prayed for “God's blessing on the families of the victims, their classmates, teachers and community.” But he also took on the weapons that make these kind of crimes possible, saying, “Let us make it clear to our elected officials that the weapons and ammunition that facilitate this carnage have no place in our culture.”

“We owe it to our children to protect the cherished freedoms so many have fought and died for: to worship, learn and work in safety. That is true patriotism,” he continued. “Leaders in our country, who are in a position to make meaningful changes, need to hear the cries of the wounded and bereaved and open their hearts to the possibility of peace. Let us work and pray to that end.”

“Let us make it clear to our elected officials that the weapons and ammunition that facilitate this carnage have no place in our culture.”

Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles J. Chaput recalled how he met with the family of victims of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, when he was archbishop of Denver—and he lamented that the response to these kinds of shootings remain static.

"Nineteen years ago I sat with the parents of children murdered in the Columbine High School massacre, and buried some of their dead. Nothing seems to change, no matter how brutal the cost. Terrible things happen; pious statements are released, and the nation goes back to its self-absorbed distractions,” he said in a statement.

“We need to pray for the victims and their families because—as I witnessed firsthand at Columbine—their suffering is intense and long lasting,” he continued. “And we need to be angry: angry at our lawmakers for doing so little to prevent these catastrophes; angry at our news and entertainment media for simultaneously feeding off these tragedies and fueling them with a steady stream of sensationalism and moral incoherence; angry at ourselves for perversely tolerating these things, and then forgetting them until the next round of violence.”

“Nothing seems to change, no matter how brutal the cost.”

He said stricter gun control is “vital and urgent,” though he said that alone will not solve the problem of violence. “We’ve lost our respect for human life on a much broader scale, and this is the utterly predictable result,” he wrote.

Law enforcement officials identified the shooting suspect as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who had been expelled for disciplinary reasons from the school where he opened fire. On the afternoon of Feb. 14, Cruz allegedly went on the shooting rampage shortly before school was to let out for the day. He was apprehended about an hour after shots were reported at the school.

The suspect carried an AR-15 rifle and had “countless magazines,” Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said. He also told reporters that of the 17 fatalities, “12 people died in the school, two were killed outside the school, one died on the street and another two died at the hospital.” Several others were transported to the hospital. Details about the shooter’s motive were still being pieced together.

Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie called it “a horrific situation. It is a horrible day for us.” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said, “This is just absolutely pure evil.”

“We are deeply saddened by the shootings in Broward County, Florida, and by the needless and tragic loss of life,” Cardinal DiNardo said in his statement. “May the mercy of God comfort the grieving families and sustain the wounded in their healing.”

“Catholics and many other Christians have begun the journey of Lent today,” he said. “I encourage us to unite our prayers and sacrifices for the healing and consolation of all those who have been affected by violence in these last weeks and for a conversion of heart, that our communities and nation will be marked by peace. I pray also for unity in seeking to build toward a society with fewer tragedies caused by senseless gun violence.”

Archbishop Wenski added in his statement: “This Ash Wednesday, we begin our Lenten Season that calls us to penance and conversion. With God’s help, we can remain strong and resolute to resist evil in all its manifestations.”

With reporting from Catholic News Service. This article has been updated with reporting from Michael J. O’Loughlin.

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Christopher Lochner
9 months ago

Thank you, Holy Father. It is evil and reflects a modern rejection of a belief in any type of judgement occurring in the afterlife and the afterlife of most religions for that matter. The shooter has his current fame which likely is perceived to be highly valued. Even if killed, and his belief was that this would be the end, he had his revenge. In the past, people would settle disputes by breaking a nose, now it's mass murder. The question, with no easy answer, is how do we treat the underlying mental illness and lack of faith? And, no, so many more gun laws would look oh-so-good but would be like playing whack-a-mole. Beware of those who make political hay of this tragedy. The gun was the tool. The intent was murder. The numbers, while shocking, are irrelevant.

rose-ellen caminer
9 months ago

He was flagged to the FBI. But they were too busy looking for Trump/Russian, "collusion", or looking to manipulate and entrap some alienated disturbed young Muslim from some war torn shit hole country, so they can then boast how great they are at stopping terrorism, while also inflaming Islamophobia, paving the way to ban all Muslims; to concern themselves with this Cruz guy.

Christopher Lochner
9 months ago

Years ago I knew someone who would keep a rifle in his car modified to a full automatic, illegal as heck. He would pull it out and point it over the heads of friends. We had nothing to do with him after the incident. He was frightening. Question now is, even if reported, what to do? What will we allow the law enforcement and legal systems to do with an individual with "potential" and it is only potential to act with this level of violence? Exactly when does the right of society to protect itself outweigh an individual right? We WILL have to debate and decide and not just over gun ownership but also in incarceration of dangerous individuals. Previously, those who could not function were placed in institutions. We now consider this to be inhumane. Answers anyone??

William Bannon
9 months ago

You need preventive detention and therapy for loner odd acting males....since this boy was famous...famous... to many students as the boy most likely to shoot up a school. Guns?....if Rachael Anderson of Ohio had a pistol in her house last week in Ohio, she could have protected herself from a home invader who killed her. Google it. I have two guns thank God and a criminal in this city who said he might shoot me. Thank God I have a right to a gun and motion detectors to stop him. You need preventive detention and armed guards at every school.....but they both cost money....money. How many Catholic schools have armed guards?

Denis Jackson
9 months ago

Hello William . I live in England where there is lots of crime and mental illness, but we don't have guns!
So we don't experience this level of violence. We have a very different culture ...the same as in Western Europe . No guns so less killings .
How do you change a culture so it is more peaceful ?

William Bannon
9 months ago

Denis...you have no border problem. You're on an island. If we banned gun sales tomorrow, our southern border over which came 12 million illegals and tons of cocaine....would also come guns made in Brazil at the Taurus plant. Japan is also an island....without a large underclass....little crime. China, having millions of poor has one of the few real death penalties on earth....used and quickly. Brazil, the largest Catholic non death penalty country....has 50,000 murders a year. China has 11,000 a year with 7 times the population of Brazil. Both unlike Europe have tens of millions of poor. This shooter was fatherless...the one in Connecticut was fatherless....I suspect many of these shooters are fatherless. Europe ran the slave trade but escaped the consequences unlike the usa which has post slavery poor who are only 13% of the population but do 50% of the murders....also having no fathers in home. But the school shootings are different. They are alienated males but I suspect many are fatherless because divorce here is easy....low income or high.

Ellen B
9 months ago

One year ago, our President signed a bill making it easier for the mentally ill to buy guns. That's not partisan, that's a fact. Whichever way you stand on gun laws... the mentally ill? It's a recipe for disaster.

Denis Jackson
9 months ago

So Ellen , is your president mentally ill or unsound?

Ellen B
8 months 4 weeks ago

Not being licensed in that area, I decline to answer. I will say, 90% of Americans want more controls around the ownership of military grade weapons. It's poor leadership on the part of our elected representatives of all levels not to act upon that.

Michael Seredick
9 months ago

I'm saddened beyond words regarding this tragedy? What will we do to stop this slaughter of children? I suspect we will do nothing because Republicans are in charge, and the National Rifle Association holds the purse strings. Prior to election '16, my pastor hinted voting for anti-RvW candidates. However, this tragedy is a tearful reminder that voting on one issue may not be wise. Will Catholic Congressional politicians who do nothing to change our gun laws be denied Communion, as has been suggested for Joe Biden, and other Democrats?

JOSEPH D'ANNA
9 months ago

Violence, mental illness, and gun violence are deeply entrenched in US society. People will always find a way to kill another person, but we can reduce the carnage of mass murders with guns by severely restricting or denying access to rapid-fire weapons. We have known this for a very long time.

Laws are intended to protect people or their rights, but they also place some restrictions on our freedoms. How many people in the US own rapid-fire weapons? Do they or we have an absolute right to possess the capability of killing as many of our neighbors as possible in a few seconds?

One argument for rapid-fire weapons is that they protect the country from “invasion”. In reality, there are few survivors or individuals who are not contaminated by radioactive material after a nuclear war. If we really believe that rapid fire weapons are essential, then the weapons can be warehoused in safe-vaults until there is a national emergency. Surviving law-enforcement, former military members, or National Guard members can instruct other survivors.

Can't we try "thinking" for a change?

Denis Jackson
9 months ago

That sounds like a great idea Joesph!
I'm so glad I live in England where I never see a gun except when I watch an American drama film .
I'm shocked beyond words .

Vincent Gaglione
9 months ago

I don’t often agree with Bishop Chaput, but in this instance, his words hit the nail on the head!

Amazing to me how the pro-life lobby has never seen fit to become a unifying campaign for gun control? They should consider Bishop Chaput's words and suggestions.

Gail Sockwell-Thompson
9 months ago

May our thoughts and prayers lead to an opening of our minds and hearts to throw off the evil shackles of the NRA. May the politicians felled by these evil spirits seek exorcism from the stranglehold of NRA dollars. May those claiming "pro life" as their position, consider those who are post utero in their defense of life. May those blinded by their fear of the other have their eyes opened so they may see the destructive path of hatred and avoid it. May we find a way to get back to justice for all. Amen.

Charles Erlinger
9 months ago

I would like to connect this issue with the one raised the other day by Fr. Malone on the relevance of philosophy and one of the essential tools for “doing” philosophy, namely, the art and science of argument. I propose that the possession of an AR-15 with attendant high capacity magazines is neither a natural right nor a human right nor even a constitutional right, but rather, a statutorily granted privilege. Rights theory is still a highly unsettled area of philosophy that is crowded with all sorts of “asserted” rights about which arguments could be made as to whether they might actually be privileges or, to use our president’s favorite adjective, “fake” rights. Is there a philosopher out there who is willing to take on this issue?

rose-ellen caminer
9 months ago

The Constitution is like the Bible; it can be interpreted to mean whatever you want it to mean, or it can be amended. A militia can mean a police force , a state militia, a neighborhood watch group, every person allotted a gun, or every person armed to the teeth! Did I say; the Constitution can be amended?

Douglas Fang
8 months 4 weeks ago

“… my prayers and condolences…” – Up to a point, these words become empty and meaningless. America is coward and weak against the gun lobby. The Church and “pro-life” lobby are coward and weak against the gun lobby. American society is stupid to be deceived blatantly by the gun lobby – “…there is no relationship between these mass shootings and the proliferation of guns, it’s all because of mental illness…” as if the two can be treated independently.

It’s all about math, statistics, and probability, folks.
- There is an increasing number of people with mental issues in today’s society due to many factors
- There are too many guns circulating in the country, including semi-automatic weapons

The above 2 factors will create an explosive environment for these mass shootings to keep on happening with increasing frequency.

Shame on people who are too afraid to speak up against the gun lobby including POTUS. In his remarks, not a single words about guns, it’s all about mental problems! Mental problems my arse!

“My message to lawmakers and Congress is: Please, take action,” said David Hogg, a student who survived Wednesday's mass shooting, “What we really need is action. We can say, ‘We’re gonna do all these things. Thoughts and prayers.’ What we need more than that is action. Please. This is the 18th [school shooting] this year. We’re children. You guys are the adults.”

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