Pope Francis Prays for Victims of Shootings in US

The U.S. Bishops address the tragic shootings calling them an ‘epidemic against life that we must, in justice, face.’

Candles honoring the 20 deceased victims of the El Paso mass shooting sit in St. Pius X Church Aug. 3 following a vigil for victims in El Paso, Texas. At least 26 people were wounded.
Candles honoring the 20 deceased victims of the El Paso mass shooting sit in St. Pius X Church Aug. 3 following a vigil for victims in El Paso, Texas. At least 26 people were wounded. (photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis Sunday remembered the victims, and the families of the victims, of recent shootings in Texas, California and Ohio, asking for prayers.

“I am spiritually close to the victims of the episodes of violence that these days have bloodied Texas, California and Ohio, in the United States, affecting defenseless people,” the Pope said Aug. 4, after the recitation of the Angelus.

“I invite you to join in my prayer for those who have lost their lives, for the wounded and for their families,” Francis said. He then led those present in St. Peter’s Square in praying a Hail Mary for the victims.

A shooting in Dayton, Ohio, in the early hours of Aug. 4, killed at least nine people and injured 26, according to CNN.

The attack took place around 1am in Dayton’s popular Oregon district. The suspect was shot and killed by officers, Dayton Deputy Director and Assistant Chief of the Police Lt. Col. Matt Carper told reporters.

Twenty people were killed and another 26 wounded Aug. 3 when a gunman opened fire in a shopping area in El Paso, Texas, according to The Associated Press.

Many of the victims were shot at Walmart, which was crowded with as many as 3,000 shoppers at the time, the AP reports. The suspect is in custody.

The two weekend shootings followed less than one week after three people were killed and 13 injured in a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, issued the following statement in response to the tragic shooting at the Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso.

“This Saturday, less than a week after the horrific instances of gun violence in California, yet another terrible, senseless and inhumane shooting took place, this time at a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas. Something remains fundamentally evil in our society when locations where people congregate to engage in the everyday activities of life can, without warning, become scenes of violence and contempt for human life. The plague that gun violence has become continues unchecked and spreads across our country.  Things must change. Once again, we call for effective legislation that addresses why these unimaginable and repeated occurrences of murderous gun violence continue to take place in our communities. As people of faith, we continue to pray for all the victims, and for healing in all these stricken communities. But action is also needed to end these abhorrent acts.”

In his message before the Angelus, the Pope reflected on the parable of the “rich fool” in the day’s Gospel reading.

The “rich fool” considers only the many material assets he acquired and the “unbridled tranquility and well-being” they can bring him, Pope Francis said.

What he does not account for is God saying to him: “This night your life will be demanded of you.”

“The conclusion of the parable, formulated by the evangelist, is of singular effectiveness,” Francis noted: “‘So it is of him who accumulates treasure for himself and does not enrich himself in God.’”

“It is a warning that reveals the horizon towards which we are all called to look,” the Pope underlined. “Jesus today invites us to consider that riches can bind the heart and distract it from the true treasure that is in heaven.”

According to Francis, this does not mean one should avoid reality, but he encouraged striving to live a life of justice, solidarity, acceptance, fraternity and peace.

“It is a matter of striving for a life realized not according to a worldly style, but according to the evangelical style: to love God with our whole being and to love one’s neighbor as Jesus loved him, that is, in service and in the gift of oneself,” he said.

“Love understood in this way and lived is the source of true happiness,” he said, “while the disproportionate search for material goods and riches is often a source of anxiety, adversity, abuse of power, war.”

This story was updated with latest information and USCCB statement at 10:33 EST.