Pope Francis condemned the massacre of innocent victims at a gay nightclub in Florida, which left 50 dead and 53 injured on June 12.
“The terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims, has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred,” a Vatican statement read.
Omar Mateen, 29, entered the nightclub Pulse, where he opened fire with a .223 caliber semi-automatic rifle and a 9 mm Glock 17 handgun.
In the history of the United States, the attack ranks as the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman, the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history and the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.
According to the FBI, Mateen called 911 before the rampage and pledged allegiance to ISIS.
The shooter’s ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, told ABC News, “This was a sick person.” Yusufiy’s parents rescued her from his beatings and manipulation after a few months of marriage.
The Vatican statement added, “Pope Francis joins the families of the victims and all of the injured in prayer and in compassion. Sharing in their indescribable suffering he entrusts them to the Lord so they may find comfort.”
Father Chris Ponnet, pastor of St. Camillus, joined a June 12 prayer vigil outside the Islamic Center in Los Angeles, where he read the Prayer of St. Francis.
“Catholic Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Persons joins the world in the shock, sadness, prayers and resolve to actions of love after the mass shooting in Orlando,” he said, noting the pope’s comments as well as those from Orlando Bishop John G. Noonan, who spoke of the tragedy as a “sword piercing the heart” of the city.
“We have stood in Long Beach, Los Angeles and at the Islamic Center to say no to all hatred and violence and discrimination because of faith, immigration status, or sexual orientation,” Father Ponnet said. “Our actions must be that of loving our neighbor. Our actions must be about programs and services for any who are mentally ill. Our actions must be about seeking out and helping those in our own or other faiths that ‘radicalize’ sacred texts in support of violence and hatred.”
Catholics must honor the humanity of the “GLBTQ sisters and brothers and their parents and family members in our congregations,” he said. Father Ponnet also called for honoring the First and Second Amendments while joining in “a ban on weapons of the battlefield in our streets,” adding that gun ownership should not be a higher value than “the respect for human life.”
Louisville Bishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said “the unspeakable violence in Orlando reminds us of how precious human life is.”
“Our prayers are with the victims, their families and all those affected by this terrible act,” he said. “The merciful love of Christ calls us to solidarity with the suffering and to ever greater resolve in protecting the life and dignity of every person.”
In the Diocese of Beaumont, Texas, Bishop Curtis J. Guillory celebrated Mass at St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica for those affected by the mass shooting.
In his homily, Bishop Guillory said it is OK to be angry about what happened, as he was, but that anger shouldn’t take over. “We cannot allow our anger to be the GPS that moves us. Rather, it ought to be our faith,” he said.
He also urged the congregation not to “pass judgment as the perpetrator did on a group of people. It’s easy for us to do. It’s easy for us to blame the whole Muslim world simply because this individual was a Muslim.”
“Think about it, we did not blame all of the Germans for Hitler nor did we blame all Anglos because of what happened in Charleston,” he said, referring to the white shooter who killed nine people at a historically black church in South Carolina. “This is where we cannot be guided by our anger.”
Clara Fox, J.D. Long-Garcia and Catholic News Service contributed to this story.