LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Pope Francis has offered his “spiritual closeness” to those affected by a mass shooting in Plymouth, England, last week.

The message was revealed at an evening vigil of reflection and prayer held at Plymouth Cathedral on August 17.

“[Francis] joins you in commending the souls of those who died to Almighty God’s loving mercy and he implores the divine gifts of healing and consolation upon the injured and bereaved. With prayers that Christ the Redeemer will grant to all the strength to renounce violence and to overcome every evil with good … His Holiness cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing,” said the message sent by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State.

Jake Davison, 22, killed his mother and four other people – including a three-year-old girl – on August 12 before turning the gun on himself. Media reports suggest he was influenced by the radically misogynistic Incel – “Involuntarily celibate” – movement. It was the largest mass shooting in the UK in over a decade.

Reports also suggest his actions in the days before the shooting demonstrated the signs of mental illness.

In his remarks at the prayer vigil, Bishop Mark O’Toole of Plymouth said the murders in his city “had a profound impact on us all.”

“We do not understand the madness, the darkness, that overtook their shooter five evenings ago in this hour. It is still with a sense of dismay, of deep sadness, that we gather this evening,” he said.

“We do so to be in silence and in solidarity, to pray for the dead, for the injured, for the loved ones of those who lost their lives, and for all those who have been deeply affected by this tragic event. We include the family of the shooter in our prayers. They, too, are victims,” O’Toole added.

“As regards the shooter, our hearts are deeply disturbed. We know something of his struggle – that he felt ‘defeated by life’ – but this does not answer the cry of our hearts regarding these innocents who have died or been injured, by his hand.  So, to him we can only offer to the judgment and purification of God,” the bishop said.

O’Toole noted that Psalms say, “The Lord will guard us from evil,” but added he didn’t understand why that didn’t happen in Plymouth on Aug. 12.

“In the face of the mystery of evil, of darkness, we can but stand in silence and lament. Our prayer for the innocent is an echo of the cry of Jesus on the Cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me’? The Son of God Himself knew from the inside the experience of darkness, of innocent suffering,” the bishop said. “In his own death on the Cross, Jesus confronted the mystery of evil and has overcome it.  Darkness does not have the last word.”

O’Toole concluded his remarks with the hope that Plymouth “rise from this hour of darkness” and those killed “find a place of light and of peace.”

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