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Orlando shooting: “Words of condolence have little value”

Posted on: June 13, 2016 12:33 PM
Emergency services respond to the shooting at the Pulse night club in Orlando, Florida - the biggest mass shooting in recent US-history
Photo Credit: City of Orlando Police Department

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Bishop of Central Florida, the Rt Revd Gregory Brewer, has responded to this weekend’s shooting at an Orlando night club by acknowledging that “words of condolence have little value”. The Bishop, whose Cathedral of St Luke is just 1.5 miles (2.6 km) away from the scene of the shooting, said: “all we can do is grieve, pray and support the families of those who have died the best we can.”

Forty-nine people were killed and 53 injured when Omar Mateen, a supporter of the Islamic terror group Daesh, opened fire at the Pulse night club at 2 am local time (6 am GMT) yesterday (Sunday). The club is popular with members of Orlando’s gay and lesbian community. The scale of the killing makes it one of the most lethal mass shootings in recent US history. The carnage came to an end when Mateen was shot dead by police. 

“I had to work to take it in,” Bishop Brewer said. “My natural reaction was to keep the horror of this event at a distance – keeping my heart safe from grief and outrage. But slowly, and as an answer to prayer, the sadness, the weariness, the empty silence of mourning poured in.

“Someone said that the deeper the grief, the fewer the words. That’s how I feel. Words of condolence have little value in the face of this carnage. For right now, all we can do is grieve, pray and support the families of those who have died the best we can.

“I will leave it to others to look for someone to blame. Instead – right now – all I want to do is to stand beside, pray, and love as best I can. There will be time later raise questions about security, gun violence, and homophobic rage. There is no justification for this atrocity. I categorically condemn what has happened. Better solutions must be found.

“What I do believe is that love is stronger than death. The promise of resurrection brings courage, and the promise of ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ should fuel all of God’s people to help build a better world. ‘Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’”

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Revd Michael Curry, was at a service in Vicksburg, Mississippi, yesterday commemorating the Martyrs of Mississippi  - three civil rights workers murdered in 1964. 

In a video message from the service, produced in response to the killings in Orlando, Bishop Curry said: “We pray for the repose of the souls for those who have died; we pray for those who are wounded – that they might have healing; we pray for the families and those who grieve; we pray for our communities, our nation and our world – indeed we pray for the whole human family.”

After reciting the Lord’s Prayer, Bishop Curry added: “May the souls of the departed, through the mercies of God, rest in peace and rise in glory.”

Other Anglicans leaders have also commented on the outrage.

The Primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Archbishop Mouneer Anis, said: “We were saddened by news of the attack in Orlando, Florida and the murder of at least fifty people, plus many wounded. We stand strongly against any kind of violence, especially where individuals think to take the position of God in punishing others. We pray for the victims’ families and friends and nation.”

The Primate of Southern Africa, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town, said: “we . . . pray for the families of those gunned down and killed in the terrible massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, yesterday. We pray for the recovery of those injured, for the LGBT community and the people of Orlando.”

A candle will be lit at the Church of Ireland’s Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin tomorrow (Tuesday), in memory of those who died in the attack, to help people to pray for the victims and all affected by the shooting. The Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Michael Jackson, said: “Outrage and incredulity combine as we in Ireland, like the rest of the world, try to take in the enormity and the evil of the horrific events in Orlando, Florida, over the weekend.

“These events, targeting a specific section of the community, have, once again, brought terror and hatred to the forefront in a place where people have been among friends and living their lives.

“As people come to terms with the attack on Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, we hold all those who have lost their loved ones and all who have been injured and traumatised by the mass shooting in our prayers. We remember victims, friends and family members at this time of devastation. We echo the statements which say that this had nothing to do with religion.

“These events are becoming all too common. It is for this reason that we hold before God each individual who has suffered and each individual who has died as a special person and as a child of God’s creation. Right across the faiths of the world we long and pray for a time when there will be an end to such attacks and an end to the needless and senseless loss of human life.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, in a joint statement with the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, said: “After Sunday’s attack in Orlando as Christians we must speak out in support of LGBTI people, who have become the latest group to be so brutally targeted by the forces of evil.

“We must pray, weep with those affected, support the bereaved, and love without qualification.

“The obligation to object to these acts of persecution, and to support those LGBTI people who are wickedly and cruelly killed and wounded, bereaved and traumatised, whether in Orlando or elsewhere, is an absolute call on our Christian discipleship.

“It arises from the unshakeable certainty of the gracious love of God for every human being. Now, in this time of heartbreak and grief, is a time for solidarity. May God our Father give grace and comfort to all who mourn, and divine compassion to us all.”

Bishop Brewer has revealed that he has received a hand-written note from Archbishop Welby offering his prayers and support. Writing on Twitter, he said that he was “grateful for the Anglican Communion.”

The Church of England used its social media channels to publish a prayer in response to the killings:

Compassionate God and Father of all,
we are horrified at violence
in so many parts of the world.
It seems that none are safe,
and some are terrified.

Hold back the hands that kill and maim;
turn around the hearts that hate.
Grant instead your strong Spirit of Peace -
peace that passes our understanding
but changes lives,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.