When I first heard about the massacre at Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston, I was devastated. How could something so heinous occur in the Holy City? How could anyone’s heart be filled with so much hate?
Although I wanted to be with the Charleston community after the shooting, I was in New York presiding at my brother’s funeral who had died earlier this week. The funeral Mass was yesterday and as you can imagine, it was a difficult day for me on many levels.
I am now back in Charleston and want you to know that I am extremely saddened by this senseless murder of nine innocent men and women. Considering all the recent news events, it appears that this action was racially motivated. Just last week, as we began our Conference of Catholic Bishops in the United States, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the USCCB, called for the Catholic community to commit to an ending of racism and the promotion of peace, justice and respect for all persons. As your Bishop, I urge everyone in the Catholic community in South Carolina to make this a personal commitment as well.
The fact that this horrible crime occurred in a house of worship makes it terribly disturbing. As I said in my public statement yesterday:
“The inside of any church is a sanctuary. When a person enters, he or she has the right to worship, pray and learn in a safe and secure environment. For anyone to murder nine individuals is upsetting, but to kill them inside of a church during a Bible study class is devastating to any faith community.”
“On behalf of the Catholic faithful in South Carolina, I offer my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and to the members of Emanuel AME Church. I pray that everyone affected by this horror will feel the comforting presence of our Lord surrounding them during this difficult time.”
When such a tragedy occurs so close to home, you may be asking yourself what you can do to help these victims and their families. I encourage you to pray; specifically, to pray a Novena. Here is a suggested prayer you can say each day for nine consecutive days:
“Lord, we pray for those who have been devastated by recent tragedies. We remember those who have lost their lives so suddenly. We hold in our hearts the families forever changed by grief and loss. Bring them consolation and comfort. Surround them with our prayers for strength. Bless those who have survived, and heal their memories of trauma and devastation. May they have the courage to face the days ahead. Help us to respond with generosity in prayer, in assistance, and in comfort to the best of our abilities. Keep our hearts focused on the needs of all the community. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Tonight, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley is hosting a prayer vigil at 6:00 p.m. at the TD Arena in downtown Charleston. I will be attending and participating in this important service. Although you may not be able to attend tonight’s vigil, I ask that you stop at 6:00 p.m. and say a prayer for everyone who has been affected by this tragedy.
May God bless Charleston, our Diocese and our nation.