NEWTOWN, Conn. — The motive behind the gunman whose Dec. 14 shooting rampage took the lives of 28 people, including 20 children, is not something that can be answered, Newtown’s local Catholic parish priest said.
“This was not part of God’s plan,” Msgr. Robert Weiss of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church told ABC News Dec. 15.
Msgr. Weiss, who accompanied police while they informed parents of their children’s deaths following the Sandy Hook School massacre, said gunman Adam Lanza’s actions show he was “a man who had serious issues in his life.”
“Why he’d want to destroy innocent children, no one can figure out.”
Archbishop Henry Mansell of Hartford, Conn., called the shooting “a senseless act of violence that claimed the lives of many innocent people” in a recent statement.
“Although we will never understand the motivation behind such a heinous act, we must turn to prayer and reflection for the victims and their families during this time of need,” he said.
“Keep them in your hearts; let them know that they are not alone in their grief and suffering, and pray that the comfort of God's love will help them through this difficult time.”
The Archdiocese of Hartford, along with Catholic Charities, has offered support for Newtown and its parish in “any way that we can.”
Msgr. Weiss said although many victim’s family members “knew in their hearts” that their child or spouse had been killed in the attack, he said in an interview with NBC that their grief was still “overwhelming” when he traveled with police to confirm that information early on the morning of Dec. 15.
When he broke the news, parents asked him what the last moments of the victims’ lives must have been like.
“Of course, no one can answer that question,” he said.
Parents of the victims recalled fond memories of their children as he consoled them late into Friday evening.
“One mother told me her daughter was going to be an angel in our Christmas pageant next Tuesday,” the priest said, “and another one told me how excited (her daughter) was getting because she was making her first holy Communion this year.”
“It was really an amazing time for parents to bring back memories,” he said.
He said the prayer vigil that packed St. Rose to capacity on the evening of Dec. 14 really showed what “kind of town Newtown is.”
“People came together to care and to support,” he said. “Hopefully, we can just keep the community together, and they can console each other.”
He shared that “many of the families” he spoke with following the shooting found consolation in the knowledge that even though their child was killed, “at least they know their child is safe; they know where they are.
“And that’s a terrible thought for any parent raising a child today to think that they might have to grow up in a world like this.”
“I pray that the Lord just lift up these families and that they know especially their children are safe,” he said.
Even in the face of such violence, Msgr. Weiss said, “If we work together, good things can happen.”
The victims of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook School massacre have now been identified as Charlotte Bacon, 6; Daniel Barden, 7; Olivia Engel, 6; Josephine Gay, 7; Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6; Dylan Hockley, 6; Madeleine F. Hsu, 6; Catherine V. Hubbard, 6; Chase Kowalski, 7; Jesse Lewis, 6; James Mattioli, 6; Grace McDonnell, 7; Emilie Parker, 6; Jack Pinto, 6; Noah Pozner, 6; Caroline Previdi, 6; Jessica Rekos, 6; Aviele Richman, 6; Benjamin Wheeler, 6; Allison N. Wyatt, 6; Dawn Hochsprung, 47; Rachel Davino, 29; Ann Marie Murphy, 52; Lauren Rousseau, 30; Mary Sherlach, 56; and Victoria Soto, 27.