Members of various religious communities came together Monday evening at a vigil to pray for the victims of the Orlando nightclub mass shooting and to comfort those who mourn.
“Our presence here is a symbol of hope,” Bishop John Noonan of Orlando said the evening of June 13.
He recounted that Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus.
“We come tonight because we too weep. We weep for the loss of our brothers and sisters in our community.”
Bishop Noonan led the bilingual and ecumenical prayer service at Orlando’s St. James Cathedral. Called the “Vigil to Dry Tears,” the event drew clergy and a congregation from diverse faiths.
The diocese said the vigil was an opportunity “to bring about an outpouring of the mercy of God within the heart of our community.”
Early Sunday morning, a gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando and began taking hostages. He killed 49 people and injured 53 more before he himself was killed by SWAT officers responding to the scene.
Scripture readings at the evening vigil included the Prophet Isaiah: “He will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.” The Gospel of Matthew was also read: “Jesus said come to me, all you who are labored and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
The prayer vigil brought together local residents and local leaders including Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, an imam from an Orlando Islamic center and several Christian ministers from other denominations.
“We come to pray and in a sense of love and respect for one another, I wanted to bring the whole religious community together,” Bishop Noonan said.
“I think it is important you see tonight we are joined by many other religious communities,” he said. “Tonight we come not as different religious but as one in the Lord. It is so important tonight to make sure that we know we are here to show a sense of who we are in relationship to one another.”
The Ireland-born bishop noted his native country’s tragic history of violence.
“And the only way we brought peace was to recognize the dignity of each person. So tonight we come to show that each person is made in the image and likeness of God. Each person is holy, each person is sacred, each person is very, very much entrusted in our love.”
Bishop Noonan noted Jesus’ words on the cross: “I thirst.”
“Jesus thirsts, thirsts spiritually, for us. He thirsts for our love for him,” the bishop commented. “Jesus showed us how to love.”
Love “is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right… Love bears all things, believes all things, helps all things, endures all things,” Bishop Noonan said, citing St. Paul. “Love never comes to an end.”
Some in the congregation went forward to light candles, while minister read a litany for people enduring violence.
“Let us be your peace, Lord,” the congregation said in response.
Another reading at the vigil came from the Gospel of Luke: “In the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”