The bishop said “anti-Jewish bigotry, and all religious and ethnic bigotry, is a terribly sin” and emphasized the importance of prayer and charity after the shooting.
“As we pray for peace in our communities and comfort for the grieving, we must put prayer into action by loving our neighbors and working to make ‘Never again!’ a reality.”
On Oct. 27, 48-year-old Robert Bowers entered Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue equipped with an assault rifle and three handguns. Shouting anti-Semitic slogans, Bowers killed eight men and three women. He also injured six others, including four policemen. After a shootout with Pittsburgh Police and SWAT, Bowers was wounded and eventually surrendered.
Bowers faces multiple charges, among them federal hate crimes for which he could face the death penalty.
Michael Eisenberg, a former president of the synagogue, said an estimated 85 people would likely have been gathered at the synagogue, spread over three separate services.
After the shooting, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said that “Religious and ethnic hatred is vile in any form, but the ugly record of the last century is a lesson in the special evil of anti-Semitism.…It has no place in America, and especially in the hearts of Christians.”
“I want to express the heartfelt support and prayers of Philadelphia’s Catholic community, and my own, for the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack and their families. May God give them courage and solace, and may this be a statewide wake-up call to resist religious hatred,” he added.
Another Pennsylvania bishop also decried the violence. Bishop Edward Malesic of Greensburg said the news has left him “absolutely heartbroken.”
“People of faith should be able to worship God in peace and security. Our sacred places should be free of all violence,” he said.
He said his diocese would pray for first responders and “the loved ones of these victims and for all of our brothers and sisters in the Jewish community.”
Scranton’s Bishop Joseph Bambera, who is the head of the Committee for Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs at the USCCB, issued a statement on Sunday, claiming the act of violence to be cowardly.
“Anti-Semitism is to be condemned and has to be confronted by our nation. The Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stands with our Jewish brothers and sisters during this time of great distress. May God grant peace to the dead, healing to the injured, and comfort to the families of those hurt and killed and to all the Jewish Community.”
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On Sunday during the Angelus at the Vatican, Pope Francis offered a prayer for those affected by this “inhumane act of violence.” “May the Lord help us extinguish the fires of hatred that develop in our society,” he said.