In Orlando and major cities around America and the world, people gathered on June 13 to pay tribute to those killed and injured in the shooting rampage in Orlando the previous day.
About 700 people also gathered to pray for those attacked and for peace in the world at St James Cathedral, less than two miles up the street from where the shootings took place at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando.
The interfaith prayer service was led by Orlando Bishop John Noonan, who was joined on the altar by Bishop Robert Lynch of St Petersburg, 10 priests of the Orlando Diocese and other religious leaders.
“Our presence here tonight is a symbol of hope. We come to pray,” said Bishop Noonan.
He was joined by Imam Tariq Rashid, of the Islamic Center of Orlando; Bishop Greg Brewer, of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida; Deacon Michael Matheny, of St Luke Episcopal Cathedral; Huseyin Peker, the Atlantic Institute-Central Florida; the Rev Tom McCloskey, of First United Methodist Church in Orlando; and the Revs John Harris, Downtown Baptist Church, and the Rev Robert Spooney, of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church.
“We come not as different religions but one in the Lord,” said Bishop Noonan, who noted that he was familiar with violence in his home country of Ireland and stressed that people will only find peace when they recognise the dignity of all people as children of God.
The half-hour service — with readings about love and peace and songs echoing that message — was a somber one. Those in the congregation lit candles and exited quietly after singing Let There Be Peace on Earth.
When he invited the local community to attend the service, Bishop Noonan said he hoped it would provide an opportunity for all to join each other in prayer that would “bring about an outpouring of the mercy of God within the heart of our community.”
He urged people to pray “for healing from this vicious assault on human life,” for comfort for those suffering loss and “a sincere conversion of heart for all who perpetrate acts of terror in our world.”
Natalia Gil, a 22-year-old parishioner of St. Isaac Jogues in Orlando, attended the prayer service with 10 others from her parish. “We’re all one big family. We’re here in the name of Jesus,” she told the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Orlando.
In the Diocese of Beaumont, Texas, Bishop Curtis Guillory celebrated Mass at St Anthony Cathedral Basilica for those affected by the mass shooting, which left 50 dead (including the gunman) and more than 50 wounded.
Police said a lone gunman identified as 29-year-old Omar Mir Seddique Mateen — opened fire inside the Pulse club in Orlando in the early morning hours of June 13. News reports said that Mateen, who pledged allegiance to ISIS terrorist group, died in a gun battle with SWAT team members.
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.
Members of Congress stood on the steps of the Capitol on June 13 with members of the gay and Muslim communities to pay tribute to the victims of the mass shooting in the Orlando, Florida, which left 50 dead (including the gunman), 53 injured and a world at a loss for words.
Jesuit Father Patrick Conroy, the 60th chaplain of the House of Representatives, led the vigil with a prayer calling for peace and an end to “violence against populations of people who are identifiable for who they are, whom they love, what they believe or what race they belong to.”
He prayed for God’s blessing during this time of deep sorrow, and asked that he “bless those who mourn the loss of their loved ones … and bless our nation, which is once again injured because of such great violence in one of our communities.”
Finally, he called on God to give us the grace to “build a world where no person needs to fear violence” and asked that he “give us peace now and forever.” Following the prayer, Fr Conroy asked for a moment of silence.
In Britain the LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council issued a statement in response to the Pulse massacre, in which the group “expressed their solidarity with their sisters and brothers in Orlando”.
“LGBT targeted hate-crimes must be recognised for what they are: assaults on the precious dignity of each human being as ‘wonderfully created as God’s work of art’ (Psalm 139),” the statement said.
“We call upon religious leaders of all faith traditions to recognise the reality of the Orlando outrage. We specifically call upon our Catholic leaders to acknowledge how the language of some official documents on sexual orientation can, in fact, incite and support those who commit such violence.”
The statement also called on “Pope Francis and Vatican Departments to support the global decriminalisation of homosexuality, with an end to the use of the death penalty and torture for LGBT people.”
The statement has been sent to Orlando’s LGBT Centre and a special prayer was read at the Farm Street Mass on June 12.