Church leaders express prayers, condolences over Sandy Hook shooting

Sandy hook mourners CNA 500x320 Mourners gather inside the St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church at a vigil service for victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. | Pool/Getty Images.

Members of the Catholic hierarchy have expressed grief and sorrow over the Dec. 14 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn. while offering prayers for victims and their families. 

A telegram sent on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI to the Diocese of Bridgeport conveyed the Holy Father's "heartfelt grief" for the victims of yesterday's violent school shooting that took the lives of 28 people, 20 of whom were children.

"In the aftermath of this senseless tragedy, he asks God, our Father, to console all those who mourn and to sustain the entire community with the spiritual strength which triumphs over violence by the power of forgiveness, hope and reconciling love," Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State of the Vatican, said in the Dec. 15 telegram.

According to the telegram, when the Pope learned of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. he asked Cardinal Bertone to "convey his heartfelt grief and assurance of this closeness in prayer to victims and their families, and to all those affected by this shocking event."

On the morning of Dec. 14, a lone gunman – now identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza – opened fire on students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School after having shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, at her home. 

The gunman killed 27 people, including 20 elementary school students, before shooting and killing himself.

In a Dec. 14 statement, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the shooting "wrenches the hearts of all people" and that the "tragedy of innocent people dying through violence shatters the peace of all."

He offered "prayerful support" for the community of Newtown and prayed "that the peace that passes understanding be with them as they deal with the injuries they have sustained and with the deaths of their beautiful children."

Hundreds of mourners gathered on Friday evening for the vigil held at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church whose pastor, Msgr. Bob Weiss, was on the scene of the shooting "within minutes" to offer assistance to those affected.

"(Msgr. Weiss) quickly alerted other priests from the parish who joined him. As this unfolded, and the significance of it became apparent, we also alerted all our clergy in the upper Danbury area," Brian Wallace, the diocese's director of communications told CNA Dec. 14.

Speaking on behalf of all the clergy, religious and faithful of his area, Diocesan Administrator of Bridgeport Msgr. Jerald A. Doyle, extended condolences to the victims and their families and offered to "make available whatever resources" needed to assist those affected by the tragedy. 

"As we continue our journey toward the Christmas Feast, may our hope for the peace and comfort of the Divine Savior, be a true source of assurance of His loving presence in our lives," he said.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said he was "profoundly saddened" by the "terrible tragedy" that occurred in his former diocese.

"My heart goes out to the parents who lost their children and to a grieving community," he said.

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