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Connecticut bishops speak out on guns after massacre

by
21 December 2012

by a staff reporter

DEMOTIX

Newtown mourns:a young boy places a candle at the base of a flagpole

Newtown mourns:a young boy places a candle at the base of a flagpole

AS THE funerals of the 26 young children and teachers murdered in a school in the United States took place this week, the Bishop of Connecticut, the Rt Revd Ian Douglas, pledged himself to fighting for new gun-control measures.

Twenty children, aged six or seven, with six of their teachers, were shot and killed last Friday by Adam Lanza, who forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. He fired hundreds of bullets from a semi-automatic assault rifle, and carried two handguns.

Bishop Douglas said on Tuesday that he expected faith leaders to "engage at a significant level" in the debate about tougher gun laws which the massacre has sparked.

The Episcopal Church in the US has advocated gun control for many years. The Dean of Washington National Cathedral, the Very Revd Gary Hall, received applause during a service on Sunday when he called on people of faith to take the lead on the issue.

"As followers of Jesus, we have the moral obligation to stand for and with the victims of violence, and to work to end it," he said. "We have tolerated school shootings, mall shootings, theatre shootings, sniper shootings, workplace shootings, temple and church shootings, urban neighbourhood shootings, for far too long."

President Barack Obama, speaking at an interfaith service in Newtown on Sunday night, promised to use every power of his office to end such occurences.

A spokesman said later that the President wanted to reinstate a ban on assault weapons, which lapsed in 2004.

Bishop Douglas said that he and his two suffragans were "very clear" on the issue, and that now was the time to act. "Our country is crying out for common-sense gun legislation, including re-instituting the ban on assault weapons."

Bishop Douglas had travelled to Newtown last Friday, as soon as he heard of the shootings. The Revd Kathie Adams-Shepherd has been Vicar of Trinity, Newtown, its largest parish, for 17 years. She first heard of the incident from her son, a firefighter, and joined the families of children as they waited for them to come out of school.

The three Bishops opened Trinity for prayer, and organised a Taizé-style service and eucharist in the evening. The church remained open, day and night, throughout the weekend.

Bishop Douglas said: "Kathie is doing what any excellent priest should be doing. She is very present for her congregation and her immediate parishioners. Under Kathie's leadership, it is as strong a Christian community as we have in the diocese." Trinity is hosting its share of the children's funerals.

In a message on the church's website, Mrs Adams-Shepherd has written: "We are truly uplifted by the outpouring of prayers and support being offered from all over the world. We understand that the world is grieving for those we have lost and all are struggling to find ways to help."

Bishop Douglas said that prayers and messages of support had poured in from all over the Anglican Communion.

Pope Benedict XVI sent a telegram to Newtown on Friday, and also prayed for the families on Sunday. He told a gathering in St Peter's Square, Rome, of his deep sadness at the news. "I assure the families of the victims, especially those who lost a child, of my closeness in prayer. May the God of consolation touch their hearts and ease their pain."

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Dr Olav Tveit, said: "We commend all who stand in vigil with those in pain. . . And we support and pray for community and national leaders who are asking hard questions, hoping to prevent future tragedies."

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