NEW YORK – In response to a school massacre in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday, one of almost 150 that have occurred in America since 2010, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami lamented “another act of senseless violence and horrifying evil,” and called for the people within his diocese to come together to seek healing.
According to media reports, a gunman entered into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and opened fire around 3:00 p.m., killing at least 17 individuals, with more believed to be in critical condition.
“It is with great sadness I learned of the tragic shooting,” wrote Wenski. “I offer my prayers and those of the entire Catholic community for those affected by this senseless tragedy: we pray for the deceased and wounded, for their families and loved ones, for our first responders and our entire South Florida community.”
“We all are understandably outraged when innocent children are made victims of senseless violence. But, even as we are still learning about the appalling dimensions of this tragedy, we must come together as a community to support one another in this time of grief,” he said.
“This Ash Wednesday, we begin our Lenten Season that calls us to penance and conversion. With God’s help, we can remain strong and resolute to resist evil in all its manifestations. May God heal the broken hearted and comfort the sorrowing as we once again face as a nation another act of senseless violence and horrifying evil,” Wenski concluded.
The gunman was 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student of the school who had been expelled for disciplinary reasons. He is believed to have used a military style assault rifle with multiple gun magazines.
On Wednesday evening, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, issued a statement expressing his sympathies and calling for prayer and healing.
“I encourage us to unite our prayers and sacrifices for the healing and consolation of all those who have been affected by violence in these last weeks and for a conversion of heart, that our communities and nation will be marked by peace. I pray also for unity in seeking to build toward a society with fewer tragedies caused by senseless gun violence,” said DiNardo.
In response to previous gun violence in the United States, Wenski supported gun control measures proposed by former President Barrack Obama in 2016 in his capacity as former head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
“We hope Congress will take up this issue in a more robust way, considering all of the varied aspects involved,” he wrote at the time.
In November of last year, following the deadly shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas, Bishop Frank Dewane, current head of that same committee, also called for a national debate on gun violence.
“Violence in our society will not be solved by a single piece of legislation, and many factors contribute to what we see going on all around us. Even so, our leaders must engage in a real debate about needed measures to save lives and make our communities safer,” wrote Dewane.
“While acknowledging the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and related jurisprudence, we live in a fallen world with daily advances in modern technology,” he continued. “Some weapons are increasingly capable of easily causing mass murder when used with an evil purpose. Society must recognize that the common good requires reasonable steps to limit access to such firearms by those who would intend to use them in that way.”
There have been 18 school shootings in the United States since the beginning of 2018.
This article has been updated to include the USCCB statement from Cardinal DiNardo.