ROME – In a telegram sent following the murder of Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell last month, Pope Francis praised the late bishop’s commitment to the poor and migrants, and offered his closeness to the local community.

In the telegram, signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the pope said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the untimely and tragic death” of O’Connell, and offered his “heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his spiritual closeness to you, the clergy and religious and lay faithful” of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Pope Francis voiced gratitude for O’Connell’s many years of “devoted priestly and episcopal ministry to the church in Los Angeles, marked especially by his profound concern for the poor, immigrants, and those in need, his efforts to uphold the sanctity and dignity of God’s gift of life and his zeal for fostering solidarity, cooperation, and peace within the local community.”

Offering O’Connell’s soul to God, the pope prayed that those who honor the bishop’s memory would be reaffirmed in their resolve to “reject the ways of violence and overcome evil with good.”

He closed his telegram offering a special greeting and blessing to those who will attend O’Connell’s funeral “as a pledge of peace and consolation in the Lord.”

The pope’s telegram was read aloud during the March 1 memorial Mass organized by the San Gabriel Pastoral Region of Los Angeles, which O’Connell oversaw as the region’s episcopal vicar. It was held at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Hacienda Heights.

Prior to his murder, O’Connell had lived close to the parish, which has held nightly prayer vigils ever since his death Feb. 18.

A native of Ireland, O’Connell was ordained a priest for Los Angeles in 1979 and was named an auxiliary bishop by Pope Francis in 2015. He was known throughout his ministry for his attention to society’s most vulnerable and has been praised as a compassionate and tender-hearted pastor.

O’Connell was found dead at his home in Hacienda Heights Feb. 18. He was discovered by authorities in his bedroom, having suffered at least one gunshot wound to his upper torso, and his death was ruled a homicide.

Last week the police arrested Carlos Medina, 61, who is the husband of O’Connell’s housekeeper, in connection with the bishop’s death. Medina has since been charged with the murder, though an exact motive for the killing is still under investigation.

O’Connell’s funeral Mass is scheduled for Friday, March 3, at the Los Angeles cathedral of Our Lady of Angels.

On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre during a routine press conference expressed condolences for O’Connell’s death on behalf of President Joe Biden, who is Catholic.

Responding to journalists’ questions about O’Connell’s death, Jean-Pierre said, “The President and the First Lady join Archbishop Gomez, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and the entire Catholic community in the mourning of Bishop David O’Connell.”

“We also express our sympathy and prayers for the family and friends of the bishop, who will certainly…remember his legacy of service to those on the margins of society,” she said, saying, “again, we offer up our condolences to the community.”

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