AURORA, Colo. — The path to peace requires rejecting violence and giving to God the desire for vengeance, hatred, bitterness and anger, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver said during a ceremony marking the reopening of a movie theater, the site of a chaotic mass shooting in July.
Archbishop Aquila recalled the 70 victims of a gunman, including the 12 who died and 58 who were injured in the July 20 incident, quoting Blessed John Paul II after he was shot in 1981. “‘The redemption of the world,’ he said, ‘is rooted in suffering,” the archbishop said.
The archbishop was one of several clergy and public officials to speak during what organizers called a “special evening of remembrance and reopening” Jan. 17 at the Century Aurora 16 theater.
Archbishop Aquila closed the ceremony with a reflection and a prayer that called for healing and for the community to unify to prevent violence and live in peace.
“In suffering, and in the love of God, dawn breaks before us. We are here tonight with one another to remember, to celebrate the lives of those we’ve lost and to support those who were wounded and continue to heal. We are here to stand together in mourning, in suffering, and we stand together in redemption,” he said.
“Walking in the way of peace means knowing we are connected to one another, that in the family of humanity, each of our lives has worth and dignity and meaning and purpose. God calls us to pursue together what is beautiful. The way of peace means coming together in love,” the archbishop told the audience during the 40-minute ceremony.
In his closing prayer, Archbishop Aquila recalled the people who died, entrusting them to God.
“We pray that they might enjoy the perpetual light of your eternal love. We pray that we who remain might trust in their happiness with you. Our hope is your victory over death. Our hope is the redemption of your suffering,” Bishop Aquila prayed.
He also asked God to be present to those who are still healing from their wounds as well as to the emergency workers who arrived on the scene to treat the victims.
“Help us to turn peace,” the archbishop continued. “We pray, O Lord, that we might honor the dead by serving one another and loving one another. We pray that we might overcome evil by love. Help us to know truth, and goodness, and beauty. Help us to know you.”
The ceremony was boycotted by the families of some victims who said the theater’s owner, Cinemark, had never reached out to them or offered condolences.
The Denver Post reported that Cinemark officials decided to reopen the theater at the request of Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan. His request came after the city surveyed residents and found that a large majority wanted the theater to reopen.