.- Following Saturday night's shooting at a nightclub in Orlando that killed 50 people, Catholic leaders from around the U.S. are offering prayers for the victims and their families.
“Waking up to the unspeakable violence in Orlando reminds us of how precious human life is,” said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Catholic bishops conference, in a statement.
“Our prayers are with the victims, their families and all those affected by this terrible act.”
In the early hours of June 12, a gunman identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen exchanged fire with a police officer working at Pulse nightclub, which has a predominantly gay clientele.
Mateen, who was from Florida and was of Afghan descent, took hostages for as much as three hours, and was shot to death by Swat officers. Though the mass violence is thought to be ideologically motivated, he was not known to have links to any terrorist groups.
Another 53 persons were injured in the shooting.
The death toll makes the Orlando shooting the worst in United States history.
“We pray for victims of the mass shooting in Orlando this morning, their families & our first responders. May the Lord's Mercy be upon us,” Bishop John Noonan of Orlando tweeted June 12.
Bishop Noonan was joined in mourning and prayer by Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, who tweeted: “Please join me in praying for the victims of violence, and their families and loved ones, in Orlando.”
Bishop William Lori of Baltimore also voiced his grief over the shooting in a tweet sent from his archdiocese, asking as well for prayers for the victims.
In his statement, Archbishop Kurtz wrote that the “merciful love of Christ calls us to solidarity with the suffering and to ever greater resolve in protecting the life and dignity of every person.”