Catholic church centre of grieving for Sandy Hook massacre

St Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown, Connecticut, became the centre of grieving for the six adults and 20 children — some of whom were preparing for their first Communion — killed by a lone gunman at the local school on December 14.

The pastor, Monsignor Bob Weiss, was on the scene of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, just down the street from the church, within minutes to offer assistance to those affected.

Other clergy in the area were quickly alerted to give help to victims’ families, and Catholic Charities of Fairfield County brought in a trauma counseling team.

Monsignor Weiss said one of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre, 6-year-old Olivia Engel, was to have been an angel in the parish’s Nativity play that evening. “Now she’s an angel up in heaven,” he said.

The Nativity play was cancelled and instead a special Mass was held for the victims of the shooting. The church remained open all night for prayer.

Several people stopped by an impromptu shrine set up on the lawn in front of the church or prayed by the shrine of the Virgin Mary nearby.

A business on the way into the small New England town of 27,000 people posted a hand-written sign that said: “Just Say a Prayer.”

The president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, said the shooting “wrenches the hearts of all people”.

The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone conveyed Pope Benedict’s “heartfelt grief and the assurance of his closeness in prayer to the victims and their families”

The president of the National Council of Churches USA, Kathryn Lohre, expressed her grief but also pointed out that the council — whose membership does not include the Catholic Church — has been calling for reform of gun law for decades.

Catholics United, a group dedicated to promoting justice and the common good, called on President Barack Obama to begin a national dialogue that would bring a “true and lasting end to gun violence”.


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National Catholic Reporter

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Image: Daily Mail

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