US Bishops Again Call for Prayer and Action Following Odessa Mass Shooting

‘Epidemic’ of violence needs solution, they said, after Texas gunman leaves at least seven dead and more than 20 injured.

Police officers investigate the scene where a gunman was shot and killed at Cinergy Odessa movie theater Aug. 31 in Odessa, Texas. Officials say the unidentified suspect killed at least seven people and injured 21 in Odessa and nearby Midland.
Police officers investigate the scene where a gunman was shot and killed at Cinergy Odessa movie theater Aug. 31 in Odessa, Texas. Officials say the unidentified suspect killed at least seven people and injured 21 in Odessa and nearby Midland. (photo: Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)

ODESSA, Texas — Several U.S. bishops offered prayers Saturday evening after a gunman killed and injured more than 20 people in a Texas shooting spree that included the hijacking of a mail truck and the shooting of several police officers.

Sunday morning police said the death toll had risen from five to seven, The Associated Press reported.

“It is with a heart full of sorrow that I write these words after hearing of the deaths and injuries caused by the shootings affecting Odessa and Midland,” said Bishop Michael Sis of San Angelo in a statement released shortly after the shooting.

“My prayers are for those who have lost their lives, who have been seriously injured, and for their families. My prayers are also for the great people of those communities directly impacted by this senseless act of violence, especially the courageous first responders and the local medical teams,” Bishop Sis added.

The Aug. 31 shooting, which took place in Midland and Odessa, Texas, was at least the 18th deadly mass shooting to take place in the U.S. in 2019.

Midland and Odessa are within the Diocese of San Angelo.

This shooting began when an unidentified man was stopped by police for a traffic violation and shot at officers as they approached him. After the shooter fled from that scene, he shot at pedestrians and people in cars. Among those shot was reportedly a 17-month-old girl. The shooter, who hijacked a mail truck during his shooting spree, was eventually shot and killed by police outside a movie theater.

Details are still emerging.

More than 50 people have been killed in the U.S. by mass shootings this month, according to The New York Times, including those killed Aug. 31. More than 25 of them were killed in Texas.

Quoting Psalm 38, Bishop Sis added: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he saves those whose spirit is crushed.”

Other bishops added similar sentiments.

“May the Spirit of Peace envelop those families mourning the loss of their loved ones and those directly injured by such cruel acts of violence,” Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, wrote in a statement Saturday.

“Our prayers are with everyone directly impacted by this senseless and horrific act in the Midland/Odessa area. Let us pray for everyone’s safety, especially first responders and those whose heroic actions have saved lives already,” Bishop Seitz added.

While the Saturday shooting spree was still ongoing, Bishop Robert Coerver of Lubbock, Texas, tweeted to request prayers “for our neighbors in the San Angelo Diocese in the midst of an ongoing active-shooter situation in the Midland/Odessa region.

Bishop Seitz, whose own Diocese of El Paso suffered a mass shooting Aug. 3 in which 22 people were killed, offered in his Aug. 31 statement a petition that the Holy Spirit would “illumine our hearts and minds to reverence and respect God’s extraordinary gift of life.”

Several U.S. bishops took to Twitter Saturday to express dismay or call for prayer after the Texas shooting spree. Among them were Beaumont’s Bishop Curtis Guillory and Washington’s Archbishop Wilton Gregory.

Bishop Sis’ statement addressed the surge in mass shootings experienced across the U.S. in recent months.

“There are no easy answers as to how to end this epidemic of gun violence in our state and our country. I ask the Lord to enlighten all of our hearts and minds, especially our government leaders, so that we can have the insight and the courage to move from a culture of death to a culture of life.”

“Our local churches are committed to helping our community to heal from this senseless tragedy,” he said. There are seven Catholic parishes in Odessa and four in Midland.

After a spate of at least three deadly mass shootings within one week of each other in late July and early August, the U.S bishops’ conference called for the passage of “responsible gun laws and increased resources for addressing the root causes of violence.” The bishops’ conference has repeatedly made such calls in the aftermath of mass shootings.

In their Aug. 4 statement the U.S. bishops urged President Donald Trump and members of Congress to “set aside political interests and find ways to better protect innocent life.”

That statement also called Catholics to “increased prayer and sacrifice for healing and the end of these shootings.”

“We encourage Catholics to pray and raise their voices for needed changes to our national policy and national culture as well,” the bishops said.

The bishops called mass shootings “an epidemic against life that we must, in justice, face.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.