Pope Benedict 'deeply shocked' by Aurora tragedy

Pope Benedict XVI Credit Mazur CNA US Catholic News 6 9 11 Pope Benedict XVI. | Mazur, www.catholicchurch.org.uk.

Pope Benedict XVI is "deeply shocked by the senseless violence" carried out by a lone gunman who injured 58 people and claimed the lives of 12 more when he attacked the crowd in an Aurora, Colo. cinema on July 20. 

"I share the distress of the families and friends of the victims and the injured, especially the children. Assuring all of you of my closeness in prayer, I impart my blessing as a pledge of consolation and strength in the risen Lord," the Pope said during his Sunday Angelus address at Castel Gandolfo on July 22.

The lethal attack occurred at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" at the Century 16 theater in Aurora, Colo., an eastern suburb of Denver.

About 20 minutes into the film, James Holmes, 24, allegedly entered through the exit door, dressed in black tactical assault gear, including a gas mask, helmet, and body armor. The gunman threw a pair of tear gas canisters into the cinema before opening fire on moviegoers. 

In total 70 people were shot and 12 killed, making it one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. Several of the victims remain critically injured in hospitals around the Denver metro area.  Among the dead were a six-year-old girl, whose mother was also critically injured, and two U.S. servicemen.

Holmes was arrested outside the cinema, where he surrendered to police without incident. He will appear in court Monday, July 23.

In response to the tragedy, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver offered a Mass July 20 at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Aurora, at which he assured people that the resurrection of Jesus Christ meant that "sin, evil and death do not have the last word" in such tragic situations. 

Today, July 22, Auxiliary Bishop James Conley of Denver will offer an invocation at a prayer vigil for the victims, their families and the local community. The prayer service will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Aurora Municipal Center. Those attending are asked to gather on the western steps of the building.

The Archdiocese of Denver is also offering counseling for survivors and victim's family members at 720-377-1398 and spiritual direction from a priest at 303-715-3197.

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