We must recognize dignity of all, Orlando bishop says at prayer vigil

1
Angel Santiago, one of the survivors of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., recounts his story at a June 14 news conference at Florida Hospital Orlando. A lone gunman, pledging allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist group, killed 49 people and injured more than 50 others early June 12 at the nightclub. (CNS photo/Jim Young, Reuters)
Angel Santiago, one of the survivors of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., recounts his story at a June 14 news conference at Florida Hospital Orlando. A lone gunman, pledging allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist group, killed 49 people and injured more than 50 others early June 12 at the nightclub. (CNS photo/Jim Young, Reuters)

ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) — In Orlando and major cities around the nation and the world, people gathered June 13 to pay tribute to those killed and injured in the shooting rampage in Orlando the previous day.

About 700 people also gathered to pray for those attacked and for peace in the world at St. James Cathedral, less than two miles up the street from where the shootings took place at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando.

The interfaith prayer service was led by Orlando Bishop John G. Noonan, who was joined on the altar by Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, 10 priests of the Orlando Diocese and other religious leaders.

“Our presence here tonight is a symbol of hope. We come to pray,” said Bishop Noonan.

[quote_box_center]

Religious leaders at the vigil

Religious leaders gather June 13 at the altar during the closing song, "Let There Be Peace On Earth," during the "Vigil to Dry Tears" at St. James Cathedral for victims of a mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Pictured from left are Jim Coffin, Interfaith Council of Central Florida; the Rev. Tom McCloskey, First United Methodist Church in Orlando; the Rev. John Harris, Downtown Baptist Church; the Rev. Robert Spooney, Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church; Orlando Bishop John G. Noonan; Huseyin Peker, Atlantic Institute–Central Florida, Bishop Greg Brewer of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida; Imam Tariq Rashid, Islamic Center of Orlando and Retired Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla. (CNS photo/Andrea Navarro, Florida Catholic) Religious leaders gather June 13 at the altar during the closing song, “Let There Be Peace On Earth,” during the “Vigil to Dry Tears” at St. James Cathedral for victims of a mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. (CNS photo/Andrea Navarro, Florida Catholic)[/caption]

Jim Coffin, Interfaith Council of Central Florida

Rev. Tom McCloskey, of First United Methodist Church in Orlando

Rev. John Harris, Downtown Baptist Church

Rev. Robert Sponey, Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church

Orlando Bishop John G. Noonan

Huseyin Peker, the Atlantic Institute-Central Florida

Bishop Greg Brewer, of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida

Imam Tariq Rashid, of the Islamic Center of Orlando

Retired Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg

(not pictured) Dcn. Michael Matheny, of St. Luke Episcopal Cathedral

[/quote_box_center]

“We come not as different religions but one in the Lord,” said Bishop Noonan, who noted that he was familiar with violence in his home country of Ireland and stressed that people will only find peace when they recognize the dignity of all people as children of God.

The half-hour service — with readings about love and peace and songs echoing that message — was a somber one. The prayers were focused on peace, how God alone is the lasting source of peace and rest. Someone read a reflection on peace by Blessed Oscar Romero, the Salvadoran archbishop martyred while saying Mass.

A participant of the "Vigil to Dry Tears" lights a candle June 13 at St. James Cathedral in Orlando, Fla., for victims of a mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The event gathered interfaith leaders and some 500 people from all walks of life for prayer, music, scripture and reflection. (CNS photo/Andrea Navarro, Florida Catholic) See ORLANDO-PRAYER-VIGIL June 14, 2016.
A participant of the “Vigil to Dry Tears” lights a candle June 13 at St. James Cathedral in Orlando, Fla., for victims of a mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The event gathered interfaith leaders and some 500 people from all walks of life for prayer, music, scripture and reflection. (CNS photo/Andrea Navarro, Florida Catholic)

Those wishing to light a candle in the sanctuary were invited to come forward and the glimmering light filled the church. The congregation exited quietly after singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

When he invited the local community to attend the service, Bishop Noonan said he hoped it would provide an opportunity for all to join one another in prayer that would “bring about an outpouring of the mercy of God within the heart of our community.”

He urged people to pray “for healing from this vicious assault on human life,” for comfort for those suffering loss and “a sincere conversion of heart for all who perpetrate acts of terror in our world.”

Natalia Gil, a 22-year-old parishioner of St. Isaac Jogues in Orlando, attended the prayer service with 10 others from her parish. “We’re all one big family. We’re here in the name of Jesus,” she told the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Orlando.

“We are gathered here because maybe not all of us have someone in common that we know, but we are all one community no matter the religion, what they believed in or who they were,” she added. Some in her group knew the victims either by face or by name. One young woman in the group held back tears and was unable to speak as she mourned for a cousin who was at Pulse nightclub that night.

Gil said she spoke for the group when she said faith is the source of their strength.

Father Jorge Torres, director of vocations for the Diocese of Orlando, Fla., prays with young people who participated in the "Vigil to Dry Tears" June 13 at St. James Cathedral in Orlando. Father Torres is among the Orlando diocesan priests lending a hand in counseling families and friends of victims of the June 12 massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. (CNS photo/Andrea Navarro, Florida Catholic)
Fr. Jorge Torres, director of vocations for the Diocese of Orlando, Fla., prays with young people who participated in the “Vigil to Dry Tears” June 13 at St. James Cathedral in Orlando. Fr. Torres is among the Orlando diocesan priests lending a hand in counseling families and friends of victims of the June 12 massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. (CNS photo/Andrea Navarro, Florida Catholic)

“It’s making us want to help our community more. The strength God has given us, the faith he has given us. The spirit he has given us to move forward to want to help others and console others. We are here to receive so we can give back,” she said.

Imam Rashid, who was invited to participate in the prayer service by his friend Fr. John Giel, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Orlando, has lived in Orlando for 22 years and has three children in the schools in the city.

“I consider this my city and the city of my children. I feel the same sentiments. This is the time when the local community from different religions should come together and show terrorists that no matter how much evil they do, they cannot break our unity or break our strength,” he said.

Maria Torres, an accredited representative for Comprehensive Refugee Services at Catholic Charities of Central Florida, attended the prayer service to help translate for Spanish speakers and offer support and consolation to victim’s families.

Torres, who volunteered at the agency’s headquarters where family members were told to wait to hear notifications if loved ones had survived, said it was a blessing to be at the cathedral.

“We can pray anywhere, but it is a special blessing to be here at this vigil, to join with other members of our community in prayer for the victims and their families,” she said.

Catholic prayer vigils

St. Stephen Parish in Winter Springs also held a prayer vigil June 13. Nearly 500 people from all walks of life participated seeking to receive comfort and to offer comfort to others through prayer.

The vigil included an opening prayer, music, prayer from St. Francis, Scripture readings, a homily by Fr. George Dunne, associate pastor, as well as time for reflection and adoration and a closing prayer.

“There was a sense among our parishioners that we needed to gather around the Eucharist in prayer for the victims and their families,” said Fr. George Dunne, a member of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament.

“It was a very powerful to witness the sense of community support and mercy toward one another,” Fr. John Bluett, pastor, told the Florida Catholic.

Mourners grieve at a June 13 vigil for the victims of the mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. A lone gunman, pledging allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist group, killed 49 people early June 12 at the nightclub. (CNS photo/Jim Young, Reuters)
Mourners grieve at a June 13 vigil for the victims of the mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. A lone gunman, pledging allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist group, killed 49 people early June 12 at the nightclub. (CNS photo/Jim Young, Reuters)

In the Diocese of Beaumont, Texas, Bishop Curtis J. Guillory celebrated Mass at St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica for those affected by the mass shooting, which left 50 dead (including the gunman) and more than 50 wounded.

Police said a lone gunman identified as 29-year-old Omar Mir Seddique Mateen — opened fire inside the Pulse club in Orlando in the early morning hours of June 13. News reports said that Mateen, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist group, died in a gun battle with SWAT team members.

In his homily, Bishop Guillory said it is OK to be angry about what happened, as he was, but that anger shouldn’t take over. “We cannot allow our anger to be the GPS that moves us. Rather, it ought to be our faith,” he said.

[quote_box_right]

Related

(blog) Standing in Orlando at the foot of the Cross

Statement from bishops—Orlando, Phoenix, USCCB

[/quote_box_right]

He also urged the congregation not to “pass judgment as the perpetrator did on a group of people. It’s easy for us to do. It’s easy for us to blame the whole Muslim world simply because this individual was a Muslim.”

“Think about it, we did not blame all of the Germans for Hitler nor did we blame all Anglos because of what happened in Charleston,” he said, referring to the white shooter who killed nine people at a historically black church in South Carolina.

“This is where we cannot be guided by our anger,” Bishop Guillory added.

By Christine Young and Teresa Peterson, Catholic News Service. Young and Peterson write for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Orlando. Contributing to this report was Carol Zimmermann in Washington.

SHARE
Previous articleFour ordained to the priesthood
Next articleThe Big Haul for St. Vincent de Paul [VIDEO]
Catholic News Service, serving since 1920 as a news agency specializing in reporting religion, is the primary source of national and world news that appears in the U.S. Catholic press. It is also a leading source of news for Catholic print and broadcast media throughout the world.

1 COMMENT

LEAVE A REPLY