Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Over the last several days, I have been praying for the victims of the horrific mass shooting in Orlando and for their loved ones who must cope with this senseless act of violence.
I have felt a range of emotions: shock, sadness and anger. But I have also felt, perhaps like you, a little bit helpless. I have wondered, “What can I do — what can we do — as a Catholic community in central Minnesota to honor the memory of the victims and to be instruments of mercy and peace in our world?”
One thing we must do is to keep praying. Following the shootings, some people posting on social media said that prayer is just a waste of time, that it doesn’t accomplish anything, and that our time and energy would be better spent focused on changing laws and attitudes.
They’re wrong about prayer. God hears us when we pray, and our prayers keep us connected to him, his love and his mercy. Prayer has the power to change our hearts and minds. It helps us to be more like Christ in what we say and what we do. It helps us to make better decisions for our families and communities. And, when we pray together, we are able to console and strengthen one another in difficult times.
So keep praying!
The Orlando shootings and the all-too-frequent occurrence of other violence and abuse in our nation also are signs that the culture of death and the “throwaway culture” that Pope Francis speaks about are alive and well.
But, as Christians, our faith calls us to do everything in our power to promote a culture of life, one that recognizes that every person is created in the image and likeness of God. Every human life is sacred and must be treated with respect — no matter the person’s skin color, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. Our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters have been particularly impacted by the Orlando shootings, and I want to assure them of my continued prayers during this time of sorrow. Hate and intolerance have no place in a culture of life.
We also can’t let people who are fueled by hate and who misrepresent religion to define our relationship with our Muslim brothers and sisters. For about a year and a half, I have been part of a group that is working to build relationships between Christians, Muslims and other faith leaders in the St. Cloud area. These meetings are helping us to get to know one another better and work together for a better community for everyone. We need to continue to build these bridges of faith and not succumb to the hate, fear and division perpetrated by those who adhere to a culture of violence.
Ultimately, we must be people of mercy. This is what our Holy Father reminds us in this jubilee Year of Mercy. The best way we can respond to the mass shooting in Orlando and to other acts of hate and violence is with prayer and the love of Christ. We will create a just and peaceful society only when we begin to understand that we are all children of God, who loves us all.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop Donald J. Kettler