|12/20/2012 2:45:00 PM|
'No words' can describe shock, sadness after shooting, says priest
Catholic News Service
Mourners gather inside St. Rose of Lima Church for a vigil service in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14.
Catholic News ServiceNEWTOWN, Conn. — Msgr. Robert Weiss, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown, was at Sandy Hook Elementary School almost immediately after the horrific shooting Dec. 14.
In the days since St. Rose of Lima has taken center stage as people gathered for a prayer vigil the night of the shootings and flocked to Sunday Masses seeking solace. They looked to Msgr. Weiss and his staff and other Catholic leaders for pastoral outreach in the aftermath of the violence, which left 20 children and seven adults dead.
Eighteen children died at the school and two others died after they had been rushed to the hospital. All of the children were first-graders. The adults included the principal and five teachers, as well as the gunman.
Police officials identified the shooter as Adam Lanza, 20, and said he killed himself as first responders arrived on the scene.
"There are no words," Msgr. Weiss told a TV reporter Dec. 15 in an interview for NBC's "Today" show after spending hours helping law enforcement officials inform parents that their child had died in the shooting. At least eight of the children belonged to the parish and will be buried from St. Rose.
Msgr. Weis said many of the family members thanked him for his presence. "There was a lot of hugging, a lot of crying, a lot of praying, a lot of just being silent," he said, adding that at the previous evening's vigil, community members "came together to care and to support. ... People really care here and hopefully we can just keep the community together and they can console each other."
The priest, along with Lutheran, Episcopal, Jewish, Congregationalist, Methodist, Baha'i and Muslim leaders, participated in an evening interfaith service Dec. 16 at a Newtown auditorium.
President Barack Obama addressed the gathering after meeting separately with each family who lost someone in the shooting. He expressed his condolences and the nation's support as they face their grief and bury their dead.
"I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts," Obama said at the service.
"I can only hope it helps for you to know that you're not alone in your grief; that our world too has been torn apart; that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you, we've pulled our children tight," he continued.
After reciting the Angelus Dec. 17, the pope, speaking in English, said he was "deeply saddened" by the Dec. 14 shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. In addition to the students and staff killed, the gunman took his own life.
"I assure the families of the victims, especially those who lost a child, of my closeness in prayer," he said. "May the God of consolation touch their hearts and ease their pain."
Just before blessing the Nativity-scene statues of the baby Jesus that Italian children brought to the square, Pope Benedict urged people to use the rest of Advent to dedicate themselves more "to prayer and to acts of peace."
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, sent a message Dec. 14 to the Diocese of Bridgeport, which includes Newtown, saying the pope had asked the cardinal "to convey his heartfelt grief" and his prayers to the victims, their families and "all affected by the shocking event."
"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," the cardinal wrote.
A front-page article Dec. 15 in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said the people of the United States must look at ways to "stem the violence that strikes them from within, heinous violence that is increased by easy access to increasingly lethal weapons and this time struck children in an elementary school."