BY Stephen Edwardson | January 12 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

14-BISHOP-GERALD-KICANUS

Bishops comfort community after US shootings

Religious leaders in the US are trying to help ease the pain in their communities through prayer and memorial services after the shootings in Tuscon, Arizona, that killed six people, including a Catholic judge, and wounded fourteen others.

Bishop Gerald F Kicanas of Tuscon flew back from the Holy Land to lead a public commemoration and healing service yesterday for the victims of the Arizona shootings.

Bishop Kicanas (above) described the trauma the shootings on Saturday caused the community: “First we have to grieve, we need to cry and to be together, especially for those who were harmed and their families.”

He is expected to participate in the funerals later this week of his close friend Judge John Roll, 63, and 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, both of whom were Catholics, who were killed in the incident.

Bishop Kicanas personally knew Gabrielle Giffords a member of the United States House of Representatives, a democrat from the State of Arizona, the supposed target of the ‘alleged shooter’ Jared Lee Loughner. She is currently in critical condition, but is making a steady recovery.

Services

The bishop attended an interfaith memorial service yesterday held at the Catalina United Methodist Church, which had been organised by United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcano of Phoenix. She attended the public Mass at St Odilia Catholic Church last night.

Vigils were held all over Arizona and the rest of the US and included impromptu vigils in the hospitals where the victims were being treated and outside Gabrielle Giffords’ office in Tuscon.

President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle are today attending a large public Memorial Service at the McKale Centre in the University of Arizona.

The community of Tuscon is now trying to prevent the funerals of the victims from being ‘hijacked’ by members of the Kansas based Westboro Baptist Church, who often stage anti-Catholic and anti-Gay protests at funerals, proclaiming that it is God’s retribution for Americas willingness to accept homosexuality.

Next step

Others killed in the shooting were Gabriel Zimmerman, 30, who was Giffords’ community outreach director, and three retirees, Phyllis Schneck, 79, Dorwin Stoddard, 76 and Dorothy Morris, 76. As of yesterday only Giffords and her staff member Ron Barber were the only of the fourteen injured victims still in intensive care.

Bishop Kicanas has said that the next step towards being healed from the horrors of the shootings will mean reflecting on how the tragedy occurred and what can be done to prevent the attacks from occurring again.

“We may never understand it,” Bishop Kicanas said. “It’s important to look at gun laws that go far beyond enabling sportsman to own hunting weapons and the availability of services for people with mental illnesses and addictions. But first it is important to live through the experience of grieving, of wondering what happened to prayer.”

National grief

The president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, local state and national leaders of the Knights of Columbus —Roll was a Knight himself —and religious leaders from all faiths were seeking to calm people of their grief.

“We commend to God those who have died and we pray for the families who lost loved ones and for those who are suffering from their wounds,” Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the bishops’ president, said in a statement on Monday. “We also pray for the person who committed these acts and those who are responsible for his care.”

Archbishop Dolan also pleaded for caution by advising ‘against drawing any hasty conclusions about the motives of the assailant until we know more from law enforcement authorities. Violence of any kind must be condemned. When the target of a violent act is a public official, it shakes the confidence of the nation in its ability to protect its leaders and those who want to participate in the democratic process.’

He called for ‘respect for the life and dignity of every person as we work together for the common good, seeking to address the various social and political issues that face us as a nation.’

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