Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Catholic Church in Nashville praying for the victims of the Presbyterian school massacre


Man lays flowers to a makeshift memorial outside the Covenant School building in NashvilleMan lays flowers to a makeshift memorial outside the Covenant School building in Nashville  (AFP or licensors)

Church in Nashville mourns victims of yet another US mass shooting

Bishop Mark Spalding of Nashville calls for prayers for the victims and families of the latest mass shooting in the US, killing three children and three members of staff in a local Presbyterian school.

By Vatican News staff reporter

Six people, including three children, lost their lives Monday following a shooting by an ex-student at a school in the US city of Nashville, Tennessee.

The incident took place in the Covenant School in the Green Hills neighbourhood, a private Presbyterian school that educates students in preschool through to sixth grade.

Victims include three nine-year-old children and three school employees: the head of the school, a substitute teacher and a custodian.

According to the police, the shooter was 28-year-old Audrey Hale, who was armed with three guns, including a semi-automatic rifle. The suspect drove to the school and got in by firing through one of the school doors, which were all locked. She had drawn detailed maps of the school, police said, including the entry points to the building.

After the shooting, the young woman who was once a student at the school was killed during subsequent gunfire with police.

Bishop of Nashville J. Mark Spalding praying for victims

The Bishop of Nashville J. Mark Spalding said he was heartbroken at the news and in a statement posted to social media asked for prayers for the victims, their families, and the Covenant Presbyterian community.

In the late afternoon, he celebrated a special Mass at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, which was live-streamed on Facebook.

“My heart breaks with news of the school shooting at The Covenant School this morning. Let us pray for the victims, their families, and the Covenant Presbyterian community.”

In a later statement, the Diocese expressed shock and deep sadness at the news of the shooting and again asked for prayers.

“This news is a painful reminder that these horrific events can happen at any time, our own city is not immune to this violence,” said Brian Cooper, chancellor and chief operating officer.  “Across Middle Tennessee, our churches and schools continue to be vigilant as we focus on the safety and security of parishioners, students, faculty, and staff. It is a top priority,” he continued. “Within the last five years, the diocese has conducted multiple comprehensive security reviews of each school and adjacent parish grounds. We have taken significant steps to continually enhance the security of our facilities in cooperation with parish leaders.”

“We have in place mandatory training for our faculty, staff, and administration. This was established several years ago,” Dr Rebecca Hammel, superintendent of schools for the Diocese, added in the statement. “This training accompanies annual site and safety protocol reviews and regular safety drills conducted with staff and students in our schools. We will look for opportunities to strengthen our safety protocols as we learn from the ongoing police investigation of this sad incident.”

US Bishops' appeals  for  gun control measures

The Nashville tragedy is the last of long a string of ongoing mass shootings that have become all too prevalent in the United States in the past decades, reigniting each time the national debate on gun reform in the country.

US Bishops have also joined in calling for reasonable gun control measures, echoing Pope Francis’ pleas that “It is time to say ‘no more’ to the indiscriminate trafficking of weapons.” In June 2022 the chairs of four committees of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a statement urging all members of Congress to action that “addresses all aspects of the crisis, including mental health, the state of families, the valuation of life, the influence of entertainment and gaming industries, bullying, and the availability of firearms.”

Pope Francis has frequently denounced gun trafficking, including in his 2015 address to a joint session of Congress. “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?” he asked U.S. lawmakers. “Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.”

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