The Most Rev. Mark Seitz, Bishop of the Diocese of El Paso, issued a moving statement on Saturday after a lone gunman intent on “killing immigrants” shot and killed 20 people inside a local WalMart store and left dozens more injured.
The diocese of El Paso, which encompasses more than 26,000 square miles and includes nine Texas counties, has a population of nearly one million people of which 85 percent are Catholic. The tragedy that struck their community on Saturday morning left this diocese in shock and mourning.
“Saturday began like any other,” wrote Bishop Seitz. “People were going about their daily activities. Some chose to stop by the local Walmart to pick up some things. And then hatred and evil insanity interjected their senseless aggression.”
As a minister, he spoke about his call to be present to those who suffer in these tragedies and how difficult it is to do so and keep a sense of composure.
“ . . . [A]s I visited with victims and those they love my heart was breaking within me. Their questions are mine as well. Why the innocent children? Why the mothers with babes in their arms? Why should any human being ever be subjected to such violence?” he asked.
“Once again in our nation we see the face of evil. We see the effects of a mind possessed by hatred. We see the effects of the sinful and insipid conviction that some of us are better than others of us because of race, religion, language or nationality. ‘He waited for judgment, but see, bloodshed! For justice, but hark, the outcry!’ (Isa. 5:7).”
He went on to name the great sickness of our time as that of a people who have forgotten how to be compassionate, generous and humane.
“Everything is competition. Everything is greed. Everything is cold. Tenderness and the love that knows no borders are crucified in a whirlwind of deadly self-seeking, fear and vindictiveness,” he said.
“It was precisely to confront this diabolic evil that God sent his Son into the world. It was to enter into the midst of this and to experience its full force that the innocent one, Jesus, experienced his passion and cross. Just when it appeared that evil had won the day Christ rose victorious! This is my hope for all who have suffered this violence today and for our community. The Christ who suffered is in our midst. He is our companion. We trust he will raise up the fallen, bring healing to the victims and console our broken community.”
He expressed his confidence in the El Paso community, saying that they “will indeed rise above this terrible day,” and went on to remind his flock that “Our God is a loving God, greater than hatred, more powerful than evil. We trust that we will witness the fulfillment of his words, ‘See, I make all things new!’ (Rev. 21:5)”
Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, where another nine people lost their lives in a shooting spree in the entertainment district in Dayton, expressed the same horror and disbelief and called upon his flock to remember the victims in Ohio and El Paso.
As Bishop Seitz so wisely advised us all: “Today let us mourn the dead and pray for them. Tomorrow let us recommit to love. And let us all brace ourselves for just action that will overcome the forces of division and build a more loving society.”
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