NEW YORK — Following the deadliest shooting in United States history, Bishop Joseph Pepe of Las Vegas hosted an interfaith prayer service on Monday evening to mourn the 59 dead, to pray for the more than 500 injured, and plea for national unity.
“In the face of tragedy we need each other,” said Pepe.
On Sunday evening, a 64-year-old gunman, later identified as Stephen Paddock, opened fire at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas. The bloody massacre has prompted an outpouring of messages and prayers from religious leaders throughout the world, including Pope Francis.
As he delivered his tearful remarks, Pepe told the diverse crowd of over 800 individuals, “in the face of violence we stand together because we cannot let hate and violence have the last word.”
“We come together in unity across our religious traditions, across race, across gender to stand with each other as living signs of that hope,” said Pepe.
The bishop used the interfaith gathering to encourage people of different faith traditions to serve as an example of unity in a world marred by division.
“In a world that is increasingly polarized we need to be a countersign,” he said. “Where there is hatred and violence we must be the sign of love and of peace. Where there is division and uncivil speech, we must stand together as a sign of unity.”
In light of the violent attack in Las Vegas, Pepe acknowledged the suffering taking place throughout the world and pleaded for an end to violence.
“Tonight as we gather to pray for healing and unity in our community of Las Vegas, I am reminded of all the places throughout the world who suffer daily violence,” he said.
“We must find ways to work together to bring about healing in our world so that none of God’s children have to suffer what we have suffered.”
The bishop also used his remarks to express his gratitude for the first responders, hospital and other medical providers, and all individuals of goodwill who immediately responded to the tragedy.
“They are living reminders of the Good Samaritan and God who calls us all from fear to care,” he said.
The prayer service was held at the Cathedral of the Guardian Angels in Las Vegas, coincidentally on the feast day of the guardian angels, October 2.