By Gina Christian
PHILADELPHIA (OSV News) — Catholic leaders throughout the country are calling for prayer and action after gun violence scarred the July 4 holiday weekend in several states.
Mass shootings took place in 13 states plus the nation’s capital from June 30 through the early morning hours of July 5, according to the Washington-based nonprofit Gun Violence Archive.
The rampages have so far left 15 dead and 94 injured. Holiday weekend shootings were reported in Washington, D.C., Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas, with both Maryland and Texas each recording two attacks.
“The U.S. bishops join with others throughout the country in offering prayers for the support and healing of the communities impacted by these violent shootings,” Chieko Noguchi, spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told OSV News in a July 5 email.
Five people were killed and several wounded in Philadelphia the evening of July 3, as suspect Kimbrady Carriker is alleged to have stormed through the city’s Kingsessing neighborhood with an AR-style semiautomatic rifle. A 15-year-old boy was among those slain; two other children sustained injuries.
Four were killed and six wounded at a July 4 outdoor party in Shreveport, Louisiana. In Texas, three were slain and eight injured late July 3 during an annual festival in Fort Worth’s Como neighborhood.
A gathering in Baltimore came under fire July 2, leaving two young adults dead and 28 injured, most of them teens.
In Tampa, a 7-year-old boy was killed July 4 amid an argument over jet skis, according to police. The child’s grandfather was wounded.
In Washington, nine were injured as a holiday event stretched into the early hours of July 5. Later that morning, the body of a young male was found on the campus of The Catholic University of America in a fatal shooting police and university officials said was unrelated to the school.
Following the Baltimore shooting, Archbishop William E. Lori issued a July 2 message imploring both prayer for the victims, survivors and their families — as well as action.
“Lord, bring us independence and deliverance from violence’s stranglehold on our culture,” Baltimore’s archbishop prayed.
At the same time, “we also consider ways that we might be called to act,” he said. “Consider how all of us can support neighborhood and community efforts that work to end violence in our streets.”
“We pray especially for those who lost their lives, and also for those who were injured and for their families and loved ones,” said Noguchi. “The Catholic Church has been a consistent voice for rational and effective forms of regulation of dangerous weapons, and the USCCB continues to advocate for an end to violence, and for the respect and dignity of all lives.”
The church’s witness to life amid the shootings is more crucial than ever, Father Eric J. Banecker, pastor of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Philadelphia, told OSV News.
The Philadelphia shooting, which took place in his parish boundaries, was “an evil act, and we need to look at it squarely in the eye for what it is,” said Father Banecker.
Without discounting the role of mental and emotional imbalances, “we shouldn’t overpsychologize” the causes of gun violence, he said. “Evil actions are evil actions. Human beings are moral agents.”
In an email message, Father Banecker told his parishioners he was “convinced we have a unique responsibility to respond spiritually to this terrible event,” which was “one more example of the disregard for the dignity of human life which finds so many examples in our culture.”
He asked parishioners to join in praying the Angelus at noon July 5, “asking the Lord, through the intercession of his Mother and ours, to be near the victims and those who mourn, to bring conversion of heart to the perpetrator and to bring about in all of us a renewed love for God and respect for human life.”
In the email, Father Banecker also requested that parishioners undertake an act of penance, such as abstaining from meat, on July 7 for the same intention.
“We cannot sit back and watch as God is pushed more and more to the margins of our society and expect any real healing from the atomization, consumerism, and loneliness of our age,” he wrote. “A Christian life well lived can bring about a renewal of our society. But it is up to us to respond to the grace of the Holy Spirit and live the abundant life which Christ desires for us.”