DAILY CATHOLIC     THURSDAY     April 22, 1999     vol. 10, no. 79

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- In a telegram to Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, Pope John Paul II has conveyed his "profound shock" over the news of the shootings at a Denver high school.

          The message, signed for the Pope by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, expressed the "sincere hope" that America would react to the tragedy by making a new effort to promote a moral vision which encourages "respect for the inviolable dignity of human life."

    [The following story comes to CWN courtesy of the Denver Catholic Register.]

          Community wide gatherings of prayer and support took place the evening of April 20 at Light of the World and St. Frances Cabrini churches in Littleton just hours after the deadliest school massacre in U.S. history at nearby Columbine High School.

          More than 1,200 students, parents, teachers and community members filled each church for the evening prayer service. Priests, prayer teams, and counselors were on hand to provide assistance to the students and parents. Father Kenneth Leone, pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Church, and Father Jerry Rohr, administrator of Light of the World Church, led the prayer services at the respective churches. At each service, a letter of condolence from Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., was read.

          Archbishop Chaput, who was scheduled to throw out the first pitch at the Colorado Rockies baseball game, April 22, cancelled all other activities to attend a mid-day prayer service and to visit the injured and their families in area hospitals.

          Waves of emotion filled the churches during the prayer services as young people broke into tears of joy at the sight of friends and classmates they had not seen since the shooting that killed at least 15, and left 28 hospitalized in area hospitals.

          The young men and women would embrace, and then quietly share whatever eyewitness or secondhand information they had. The words, "Oh my God, no!" followed by tears of sorrow were heard as students shared the names of the injured and the dead.

          "I was in the choir room when the shooting began," Janelle Behan, a parishioner at Light of the World Church, told the Register. "There were 16 of us in a small office designed for about two people."

          "We stayed there from about 11:45 until about 3:30 until the SWAT team came and took us out," said the Columbine High School senior. "They had us crawl out on the floor… on the way out I saw two bodies," she added as she broke into tears.

          "I was outside by the stairs when they walked into the school," said Brad Jenkins, describing the shooting. "They were shooting into the school through the windows and throwing pipe bombs down by where the cars were parked.

          "At first I thought it was a joke," he continued. "Then I realized it wasn't, and jumped into my truck… a bunch of teachers and students got in and I brought them down the street," he added.

          "The hardest thing right now is hearing the names of the people who were killed and not knowing who else might have died," said Cory Hardison, who was in the school when the shooting began. Asked why he had come to the prayer service, Hardison, who is not Catholic said, "I came here to see my friends and to hear the names… I am kind of in-between having any faith right now."

          Nancy Love, whose daughter Crystal is a junior at Columbine High School, was working at home when she heard news of the shooting. "I went upstairs and turned on the TV and it just started snowballing," said Love. "My daughte's locker is right across from the library and I couldn't remember her schedule so I didn't know what part of the school she might have been in."

          "There was nothing I could do," she continued. "She did the right thing and called me-- I was hysterical-- she was in a house and was safe." As she was speaking, a young female Columbine student walked up and embraced Love. Both broke into tears of joy as Love said, "Oh, thank God you are all right." As she wiped away tears, Love said, "I've known her since she was this tall," indicating the size of a child of 4 or 5 years of age.

          In his letter, Archbishop Chaput stated: "I cannot begin to understand the anguish you feel. Nor can I offer an explanation for why such a tragic event could occur. I can only say that if you seek out God's comfort, He will walk with you."

          Pope John Paul II and former the Denver archbishop, Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, also sent messages of condolence in the hours following the shooting.

          "His Holiness Pope John Paul II has been deeply shocked by news of the terrible tragedy which has caused many deaths and injuries at a school near Denver and he asks you to convey to the families and school community the assurance of his prayerful closeness at this difficult time," said the Pope in a message conveyed by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state.

          In his message, Cardinal Stafford stated, "Upon hearing the news, I went to St. Peter's Basilica to ask for his intercession for the surviving young people of the high school, especially the wounded, and for the families of the students. Be assured of my deep communion with you in prayer and solidarity with the people of Colorado."

    [The following is from Noticias Eclesiales Church News] DENVER, 21 (NE) Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver sent a message to faithful gathered for prayer services held Tuesday night in the Columbine area expressing his solidarity with the victims of the school shooting occurred yesterday in Colorado. The Archbishop invited faithful to pray for the victims and the perpetrators of the massacre that took place at Columbine High School, in Littleton, southwest of Denver, where at least 25 persons were killed after two students entered the school with guns and bombs and opened fire to students and teachers alike.

          "Finding the right words is difficult at a time like this, even for archbishops. I cannot begin to understand the anguish you feel. Nor can I offer an explanation for why such a tragic event could occur. I can only say that if you seek out God's comfort, He will walk with you - even at a moment like this. His mercy is greater than we can imagine," wrote the prelate.

          Archbishop Chaput, who was at the time in Wichita, recalled in his message that "the best antidote to violence is hope." "Each one of you is a sign of that hope, especially the young people among us. It's up to us to be Christ present in the world, if we are to build a society that respects all human life."

          "Please know that my prayers are with each of you this evening, and with all those who lost their lives today," said the Archbishop of Denver. "I will continue to pray for those suffering in local hospitals and for all those people awaiting news on the condition of a loved one. And, though it may be difficult tonight, I ask your prayers for the perpetrators of today's crimes, that they will encounter God's mercy."

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales. Both CWN and NE are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

April 22, 1999       volume 10, no. 79


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