We must recognize dignity of all, Orlando bishop says at prayer vigil

IMAGE: CNS photo/Andrea Navarro, Florida Catholic

By Christine Young and Teresa Peterson

ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) — In Orlando and major cities around
the nation and the world, people gathered 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.

interfaith prayer service was led by Orlando Bishop John G. Noonan, who was
joined on the altar by Bishop Robert N. 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.

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 recognize the dignity of
all people as children of God.

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

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.

“We are gathered here
because maybe not all of us have someone in common that we know, but we are all
one community no matter the religion, what they believed in or who they were,” she
added. Some in her group knew the victims either by face or by name. One young woman
in the group held back tears and was unable to speak as she mourned for a
cousin who was at Pulse nightclub that night.

Gil said she spoke for the group
when she said faith is the source of their strength.

“It’s making us want to
help our community more. The strength God has given us, the faith he has given
us. The spirit he has given us to move forward to want to help others and
console others. We are here to receive so we can give back,” she said.

Imam Rashid, who was invited to participate
in the prayer service by his friend Father John Giel, pastor of Holy Family
Parish in Orlando, has lived in Orlando for 22 years and has three children in
the schools in the city.

“I consider this my city
and the city of my children. I feel the same sentiments. I feel extra pain
because I have dedicated my life in service to the community. This is the time
when the local community from different religions should come together and show
terrorists that no matter how much evil they do, they cannot break our unity or
break our strength,” he said.

Maria Torres, an accredited
representative for Comprehensive Refugee Services at Catholic Charities of
Central Florida, attended the prayer service to help translate for Spanish
speakers and offer support and consolation to victim’s families.

Torres, who volunteered at the agency’s
headquarters where family members were told to wait to hear notifications if
loved ones had survived, said it was a blessing to be at the cathedral.

“We can pray anywhere, but
it is a special blessing to be here at this vigil, to join with other members
of our community in prayer for the victims and their families,” she said.

In the
Diocese of Beaumont, Texas, Bishop Curtis J. 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.

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 the Islamic State
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.”

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

is where we cannot be guided by our anger,” Bishop Guillory added.

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Young and Peterson write for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Orlando. Contributing
to this report was Carol Zimmermann in Washington.

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