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Catholic Voice
  October 9, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 17   •   Oakland, CA
Bishop's Column

A woman lights candles at a makeshift vigil on the Las Vegas Strip Oct. 2 following a mass shooting at an outdoor country music festival. Late Oct. 1 a gunman perched in a room on the 32nd floor of a hotel unleashed a shower of bullets on the festival below, killing at least 59 people and wounding 527.
Chris Waittie/Reuters, cns

Bishop Barber: Evil NEVER has the last word


Most Rev.
Michael C. Barber, SJ

Since October is the month of the Holy Rosary, after watching the news, this is the time to say the Sorrowful Mysteries.

Hurricanes in Texas, the Caribbean, Florida and Puerto Rico. A devastating earthquake in Mexico. Houses have been destroyed. Seniors died of heat in a rest home. A Mexican family was in their parish church, celebrating the Baptism of their newborn baby. The little child and the whole family died when the church collapsed.

So very sad as they are, at least these were tragedies caused by nature. Now we see the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas — caused by deliberate human evil. When God created human beings, he gave us the gift of free will. As we see in the story of Adam and Eve, some use their free will for good, and some for evil.

But evil NEVER has the last word. The shooting in Las Vegas has evoked an outpouring of support and compassion. People stand in long lines outside Las Vegas clinics and hospitals to donate blood.

Bishop Joseph Pepe of Las Vegas convened an ecumenical prayer service in his Cathedral of the Guardian Angels to pray for the dead and wounded. We here in Oakland honor first responders, our police, firefighters and paramedics, — and the life-saving role they play, in our Blue Mass held Oct. 6.

Pope Francis sent a telegram to Bishop Pepe, pledging the support of his prayers. And everywhere in the Catholic Church, in October, we faithful take up our rosaries to unite ourselves with the suffering souls in Las Vegas, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Florida, Houston — and the Caribbean. We unite ourselves, and those who are suffering, with the Passion of Jesus Christ.

On a practical level, the Church has responded immediately to the devastation caused by the natural disasters. In the US, Catholic Charities USA has been providing relief to those in Texas and Florida. Catholic Relief Services, the overseas Catholic Charity, has been assisting in Mexico, Cuba, Dominica and other suffering Caribbean countries.

I'm pleased to see pastors in our diocese have been taking up special collections to assist CRS and Catholic Charities. Our Latino priests are planning a fund-raising event for the earthquake victims.

This week I am participating in two events to help our diocese respond in the event of an earthquake or other natural disaster here. I'm meeting with representatives of the Army National Guard to identify and train some of our priests to respond as chaplains to Emergency Operations Centers in the event of a crisis. These priests would provide comfort and support to anyone in need, not just Catholics.

Where people are suffering, the Church wants to be there.

Also I've been invited to speak as a panelist in a Senior Leader Symposium on how faith-based communities can assist with the Red Cross, government and military agencies in the event of a mass casualty crisis. We are meeting aboard the Amphibious ship USS Essex as part of Fleet Week. We'll be discussing questions on what should parishes, churches and Catholic schools do — or NOT do — in order to provide assistance. How would that be coordinated and organized? We need to be prepared, given our earthquake-prone geography.

Evil does not have the last word. Our Lady crushed the head of the serpent. Christ rose from the dead and destroyed death forever.

In the first instance: Let us pray that this Eternal Life be granted to those who have died in the recent tragedies. Let us also give something of our time, talent or treasure to relieve the pain of those suffering.

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