DENVER –– Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver and his auxiliary, Bishop James D. Conley, offered prayers and support to the victims, survivors and the community after a gunman killed at least a dozen people and wounded dozens more during a July 20 midnight screening of the movie “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora.
“For those who were killed, our hope is the tender mercy of our God,” the bishops said in a joint statement. “‘Neither death nor life,’ reflected St. Paul, ‘can separate us from the love of God.'”
“For those who were wounded – physically, emotionally and spiritually – our hope is in their recovery and renewal. To them we offer our prayers, our ears to listen, and our hearts to love. The road to recovery may be long, but in hope we are granted the gift of new life.”
Archbishop Aquila and Bishop Conley also prayed for the shooter. “We hope also for the perpetrator of this terrible crime, and we pray for his conversion. Evil ruled his heart last night,” they said July 20. “Only Jesus Christ can overcome the darkness of such evil.”
James Holmes, 24, who had been a doctoral student at the University of Colorado before he dropped out, was arrested in connection with the mass shootings. Police said Holmes was still wearing a bulletproof vest in the movie theater’s parking lot when he was apprehended. News accounts in the hours following the attack put the number of wounded variously at 38, up to 50 and as many as 59 late in the day.
Archbishop Aquila, who was to celebrate an evening Mass for those affected by the shooting, and Bishop Conley said Regina Caeli Counseling Services of Catholic Charities in the archdiocese would offer counseling over the next few weeks to those who need it.
“We look for opportunities to pray with our community,” the bishops added. “And we continue to work to support families and communities in forming people of peace.”
President Barack Obama made only one campaign appearance July 20, in Fort Myers, Fla., spoke only of the shootings during his appearance, and canceled the rest of his schedule. First lady Michelle Obama also canceled two scheduled appearances in Virginia.
“There are going to be other days for politics,” the president said. “This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection.”
“The federal government stands ready to do whatever is necessary to bring whoever is responsible for this heinous crime to justice,” Obama said, but “if there’s anything to take away from this tragedy it’s the reminder that life is very fragile. Our time here is limited and it is precious. … It’s what we do on a daily basis to give our lives meaning and to give our lives purpose. That’s what matters. At the end of the day, what we’ll remember will be those we loved and what we did for others. That’s why we’re here.”
Obama’s Republican rival for the presidency, Mitt Romney, was in New Hampshire. “We are praying for the families and loved ones of the victims during this time of deep shock and immense grief,” he said in a statement. We expect that the person responsible for this terrible crime will be quickly brought to justice.”
“This empty evil adds to a series of violent acts that weigh heavily on the national consciousness, acts that must surely occasion focused discussion on the interplay of violence and the availability of guns,” said the Rev. Francis H. Wade, interim dean of the Episcopal Church’s Washington National Cathedral.
“This moment also calls for prayer,” he said. “Our prayers at the National Cathedral today will mourn the fallen – and we will continue to remember those injured, along with their communities, as we renew our calls for healing and peace.”
Joanne Schwartz, executive director of Progress Now Colorado, said: “Today we offer condolences to the families affected, and to all of our neighbors in Aurora as they struggle to cope with this terrible act of violence. And we call on Congress and elected officials at every level to put aside partisan differences, and take action to stop the gun violence that takes place every day across America.”
Schwartz noted in her statement that after the Columbine High School slayings, also in Colorado, in 1999, “Republicans and Democrats came together to support closing the ‘gun show loophole’ by an overwhelming margin: a model of cooperation we should aspire to today.”