Denver's bishops grieve with community after shooting massacre

By Marianne Medlin

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Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley mourned with the Denver community after a gunman opened fire in a local movie theater on July 20, killing 12 and wounding 50.

“We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters cast into that darkness. They do not stand alone. As Catholic bishops, we 'weep with those who weep,'” they said.

“We are shocked and saddened by this tragedy. Our hearts and prayers go out to those impacted by this evil act.”

At a packed midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” at Century Movie Theater in the eastern suburb of Aurora, Colo., a man identified as James Holmes, 24, entered the front of the theater and set off what appeared to be a noxious canister of gas.

Clad in a gas mask and armed with a shotgun, a rifle, and two handguns, Holmes began shooting at random. Stunned moviegoers, many of whom initially thought the noise was part of the show, began to flee as Holmes ascended the aisle.

According to Aurora Police, Holmes was apprehended outside the theater at 12:30 a.m., shortly after the attack, and taken into custody.

In their statement released Friday morning, Archbishop Aquila and Bishop Conley prayed for the conversion of the “perpetrator of this terrible crime.”

“Evil ruled his heart last night,” they wrote. “Only Jesus Christ can overcome the darkness of such evil.”

The mass shooting has been the worst in Colorado since the Columbine High School massacre, which occurred in Littleton in April of 1999. Twelve students and a teacher were killed and 26 others wounded after teenage gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire, before killing themselves.

Archbishop Aquila and Bishop Conley stressed that the Archdiocese of Denver “stands ready to assist the victims of this tragedy, and our community,” and noted that the Regina Caeli Counseling Services of Catholic Charities will “offer counseling over the next few weeks to those who need it.”

“We look for opportunities to pray with our community. And we continue to work to support families and communities in forming people of peace.”

The two bishops offered prayers especially for those who were killed, adding that they “commend their souls, and their families and friends, to God’s enduring love.”

“For those who were wounded – physically, emotionally, and spiritually, our hope is in their recovery and renewal,” they said.

“To them we offer our prayers, our ears to listen, and our hearts to love. The road to recovery may be long, but in hope we are granted the gift of new life.”

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