Canadian archbishop offers prayers after mass shooting

shutterstock 1496991245 Saint Mary's Cathedral Basilica in Halifax. | Caleb Anstey Photography/Shutterstock

The Archbishop of Halifax-Yarmouth in Canada has offered prayers for the victims of a weekend shooting rampage in a small town in Nova Scotia, including a member of the country's Royal Canadian Mounted Police. 

In a letter addressed to the commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) dated April 20, Archbishop Anthony Mancini of Halifax-Yarmouth expressed condolences for the death of Constable Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year veteran of the force. 

"I wish to express on my behalf, as Archbishop of Halifax-Yarmouth, and in the name of Catholic faithful, our sincere condolences on the loss of life of Constable Heidi Stevenson," said Mancini. 

"Her death in the line of duty indicates the highest sacrifice that one can make on behalf of the citizens she served," he added. The archbishop said that he would be praying for her family, and for the officers of the RCMP who are mourning her life. 

In a video message posted on Tuesday, April 21, Mancini offered condolences, prayers, and assurances to the people of his archdiocese after, according to police, denture-fitter Gabriel Wortman went on a 14-hour shooting attack which spread across Saturday and Sunday.

"These last few days have been a shock, as we have all been affected by the useless and premature death of so many of our fellow citizens," he said. "Try as we will to understand this tragedy, it remains incomprehensible. We are experiencing a great sense of loss, frustration, and even anger," he added. 

As of Monday morning, 18 people have been confirmed to have been killed by the shooter, making it the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history, stunning a province which typically sees fewer than 15 homicides total per year. 

Authorities have not yet determined a motive for why the 51-year-old denture fitter committed the attack. The suspect is now deceased, although it has not yet been determined how he died. 

Mancini acknowledged that the existing circumstances related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made the grieving process more complicated.

"This loss of life comes upon us at a time when we are already weighed down by the threat of the coronavirus. In this time of mourning, we ought to be able to come together to experience the comfort of community care and its support. Yet here we are, in isolation in order to stay safe, making the present circumstances even more tragic," he said. 

The archbishop encouraged people to use "technological means" to offer support to each other throughout the grieving process, and reminded Nova Scotians that "love is greater than tragedy and death."

"I wish to extend to all the families and friends of those who have died our prayers and our expression of solidarity," he said. "In this time, when we celebrate the resurrection, it is good to recall that death is not the last word."

Mancini also suggested that his flock pray for "the growing number of COVID-19 victims" and "for those on the front lines doing all they can to protect us--the doctors, the nurses, and of course, the police."

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