A mass shooting in Arizona that left 6 dead and over a dozen injured has caused an outpouring of grief from individuals across the nation, but it is being even more deeply felt by the local Catholic community in Tucson.
The six who were killed in the violent attack Jan. 8 included 63 year-old U.S. District Judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, both of whom were involved in Tucson Catholic parishes.
Fr. Richard Troutman, pastor of St. Odelia's where third-grader Christina received her First Communion and sang in the children's choir, condemned the violence as an “unnecessary loss” in a Jan. 10 phone interview.
The incident began on Saturday when 22 year-old Jared Loughner opened fire at a local supermarket where recently elected Democrat Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was giving a community address. Loughner, a socially isolated, anti-government youth with a history of mental instability, was reportedly intent on killing the congresswoman with whom he took personal issue.
Rep. Giffords is alive but in critical condition after being shot in the head at point-blank range.
Nine year-old victim Christina Taylor Green was born on Sept. 11, 2001, and was featured in a book called "Faces of Hope" that followed the lives of one baby from each state born on the day of the terrorist attack nearly a decade ago. The young girl is a granddaughter of former New York Yankees and Mets manager Dallas Green, and the daughter of John Green, a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
She was recently elected to the student council at her local school, Mesa Verde Elementary, and “as a result had an interest in government,” Fr. Troutman told CNA.
Christina had been invited by a neighbor, “who was like a grandmother to her,” to go to Rep. Giffords' Saturday talk, the priest said. Because of her small size and enthusiasm for the event, Fr. Troutman speculated that Christina was able to meander close to the front of the crowd.
“She was probably standing right next to the congresswoman when this all happened,” he said.
When Loughner opened fire, Christina was hit in the chest, Fr. Troutman reported. Although “she was alive when they took her to the hospital” she later died at the medical facility.
The priest added that Christina's parents – Roxanne and John – are reeling from grief. “I talked to them that day – they were in shock,” he said.
Fr. Troutman said a host of events are being planned to honor the third-grader's memory including a vigil, viewing and Scripture and Rosary service for her on Wednesday evening. Christina's funeral will be held the afternoon of Thurs., Jan 12.
A Mass for all victims will be presided over by Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson at St. Odelia's on Jan. 11.
Bishop Kicanas, who was at an event in the Holy Land during the shooting, said in a Jan. 9 statement that he is “shocked and devastated” by the incident.
“We weep in our sadness, and we seek comfort from each other,” he said. “We pray to be a channel of peace, that where there is hatred we will bring the love of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Kicanas noted the death of Federal Judge John Roll in his remarks, emphasizing his prayers “for the comfort and consolation of Maureen, his wife, their children, and all members of their family.”
The bishop said that Judge Roll “was a person of great faith and great integrity” and lived as “as a devoted parishioner” of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish and St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Tucson, often serving at early morning Mass.
“He lived his faith as a servant of our nation for the cause of justice,” Bishop Kicanas said.
In the aftermath of the attack, religious and political leaders across the U.S. are decrying the violence and offering condolences to victims and their families.
"The senseless carnage in Tucson is a terrible tragedy for the victims, their families, the people of Arizona and people of good will everywhere," said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, head of the Catholic fraternal organization the Knights of Columbus.
"We feel a tremendous sense of loss at Judge Roll's death, and for all, young and old, who lost their lives in this attack,” he said. “We pray for God's mercy on all who have been touched by this tragedy."
Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York also offered his condolences as president of the U.S. bishops' conference and lamented the effects and future implications of the shooting.
“When the target of a violent act is a public official, it shakes the confidence of the nation in its ability to protect its leaders and those who want to participate in the democratic process,” he said.
“As bishops we call once more for respect for the life and dignity of every person as we work together for the common good, seeking to address the various social and political issues that face us as a nation.”
Gunman Jared Loughner is currently in custody and refusing to cooperate in questioning by authorities.
The 22-year-old was known by acquaintances and professors to be an outcast who often posted incoherent political diatribes online and behaved erratically in classroom settings.
According to the New York Daily News, a shrine containing a skull replica, decayed oranges, candles and soil – often used in occult ceremonies – was found in his backyard.
Loughner was scheduled to make his first court appearance on Jan. 10 at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.