At the reopening of the Aurora theater where a gunman took 12 lives last July, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver said the darkness of evil cannot overcome the light and beauty of Christ.
“Seeing the beautiful helps put behind you the darkness, the evil, the horror of what occurred here. Opening yourself up to beauty, to receiving beauty, is a way of really pushing out that darkness that can be there,” he told CNA shortly after the Jan. 17 event.
“When the sunrise comes up, there's a real beauty and goodness there, that warms your heart and fills you with a certain peace and joy, to see the sun rising after the darkness of night.”
“Christ is the light of the world,” he added. “He identifies himself as the light of the world, and 'Aurora' means dawning, light...we cannot let evil have the final word, and good always triumphs over evil.”
The archbishop attended the reopening Thursday to offer a closing prayer at the event.
“I'm going because when a priest is asked to join a community in prayer, he goes. I'm going because the opening will be a night of remembering, and mourning, and because the Scripture I read instructs me to 'mourn with those who mourn,'” he wrote in a Dec. 17 column for The Denver Post.
Some 2,000 people attended the reopening, including victims and their families, first responders, and local hospital employees and volunteers.
On July 20 last year at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” James Holmes, 25, entered the theater dressed in black tactical assault gear. He threw a pair of tear gas canisters into the cinema before indiscriminately opening fire on moviegoers.
Holmes was arrested outside the cinema when he surrendered to police. He had murdered 12 people and wounded 58 more.
On Jan. 11, a Colorado judge chose to delay Holmes' arraignment until March 12, giving his defense lawyers more time to prepare his plea.
Speakers at the theater's reopening on Thursday included Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, Aurora mayor Steve Hogan and Tim Warner, CEO of Cinemark.
In his comments, Warner noted that the “selfless response” of all those who responded to the tragedy was “a testament that good always triumphs over evil, that love and compassion will always make a difference.”
The CEO's personal response to the tragedy was emphasized by Gov. Hickenlooper, who thanked him for coming himself to Colorado “the moment he heard” of the tragedy and not sending someone else. Gov. Hickenlooper said the reopening was part of the healing process, having “the ability to find light where there was darkness, the opportunity to push towards finding joy.”
In his remarks before the closing prayer, Archbishop Aquila quoted the Bible by saying that Christ came to “shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
He reminded those gathered that the world's redemption is rooted in suffering. “In suffering, and in the love of God, dawn breaks before us...we are here to stand together in mourning, in suffering, and we stand together in redemption.”
Archbishop Aquila said, “the way of peace means rejecting the violence of that night. It means giving to God our desire for vengeance, our hatred, our bitterness, and our anger...knowing that we are connected to one another – that in the family of humanity, each of our lives has worth, and dignity, meaning, and purpose.”
“God calls us to pursue together what is true, what is good, and what is beautiful. The way of peace means coming together in love,” he added.
“If we walk together in peace, we will honor those who died here more than words can. Our lives are the greatest tribute we can make to those who perished or were wounded here. We must not forget – we must make a memorial of the lives we choose to live.”
The archbishop closed the reopening in prayer, asking that God “transform us through our suffering” and “make of this community a community of peace.”
“Help us to know truth, and goodness, and beauty,” he prayed. “Help us to know you.”
During the event, counselors were available to those needing support. After the ceremony, the film “The Hobbit” was shown at the theater. Free movies will be offered to the community Jan. 18 to 21.
Cinemark chose to reopen the theater complex after Aurora residents expressed support for the move and mayor Hogan requested it. About $1 million was spent in remodeling, and the theater, formerly the Century 16, has been renamed Century Aurora.