Dallas bishop prays for slain police officers, 'an end to senseless violence'

A woman lights a candle at a makeshift memorial outside of the Dallas Police Department headquarters in Dallas July 8. The prior evening gunmen shot and killed five police officers and wounded seven during a peaceful protest in downtown Dallas. (CNS photo/Rebecca Kirstin Patton, The Texas Catholic)

updated 12:05 p.m., central

Following an apparent coordinated killing Thursday night of five Dallas-area police officers, Bishop Kevin Farrell asked for prayers for those who died and called for "an end to senseless violence." 

The shootings occurred around 9 p.m. Thursday toward the conclusion of a to-that-point peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in response to the recent deaths of two black men who were shot by police officers in Baton Rouge, La., and a St. Paul, Minn., suburb. The Dallas Police Department reported that during the protest two snipers from elevated positions targeted police officers who were manning the march route. Five officers died, and seven more were wounded, along with two civilians. 

During a media briefing Friday morning, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said three suspects were in custody and and that a fourth suspect was killed, by a robot-controlled bomb, following hours of negotiations and exchanged gunfire. Before his death, the suspect said he was upset about Black Lives Matter, about recent police shootings and with white people, adding he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers. He also indicated he had planted explosives around the city, and added he was not affiliated with any group and that he acted alone. 

The criminal investigation is ongoing.

Laudato-Si_web.jpg
Explore Pope Francis' environmental encyclical: Get this free readers' guide when you sign up for the weekly Eco Catholic email.

“We are heartbroken,” Brown said. “There are no words to describe the atrocity that occurred to our city. All I know is that this must stop. This divisiveness must stop, between our police and our citizens.”

An interfaith prayer service is scheduled for noon in Dallas. 

Speaking from Warsaw, Poland, President Barack Obama condemned the shootings, describing them as a “vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement," adding "there is no possible justification for these types of attacks."

In a statement Friday, Farrell described the previous night's violence as "staggering." Our first concern, he said, was with the families who lost loved ones in the attack. 

"We have been swept up in the escalating cycle of violence that has now touched us intimately as it has others throughout our country and the world. All lives matter: black, white, Muslim, Christian, Hindu. We are all children of God and all human life is precious," he said. 

The Dallas bishop continued: "We cannot lose respect for each other and we call upon all of our civic leaders to speak to one another and work together to come to a sensible resolution to this escalating violence. Let us implore God our Heavenly Father to touch the minds and hearts of all people to work together for peace and understanding," concluding by quoting Pope Francis in saying "Violence cannot be overcome with violence. Violence is overcome with peace.”

Shortly after news of the shooting broke, Farrell began tweeting his prayers, first for the officers shot as well as the families of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, the two men killed in police shootings earlier in the week.

“Gun violence,” Farrell later tweeted, “is not a problem for someone in another state, or another town. It affects EVERYONE – even right here in #Dallas.”

With each update of an officer’s death, Farrell asked for prayers for them, quoting several verses from the Book of Psalms.

Priot to the attack on Dallas police, Farrell had been outspoken in his support for gun control measures, and in January prohibited firearms from his diocese's worship and meeting spaces. 


More: "Dallas bishop condemns Texas' gun carry law, prohibits guns in worship spaces" (Jan. 14, 2016)


Other Texas bishops offered their condolences for the Dallas community.

“We pray for the Dallas police officers and for all who have been harmed by the senseless and evil violence in Dallas. Lord bring us Peace,” tweeted Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas.

“We pray for our fellow Texans,” said Lubbock, Texas Bishop Placido Rodriguez on Twitter. “May Our Lady of Guadalupe wrap her mantle of protection around them!”

Other bishops from across the nation also weighed in.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the assassination of Dallas police officers "an act of unjustifiable evil," and together with the shootings in Baton Rogue and St. Paul "calls us to a moment of national reflection."

"The police are not a faceless enemy. They are sons and daughters offering their lives to protect their brothers and sisters. ... So, too the suspects in crimes or routine traffic stops are not just a faceless threat. They are members of our family in need of assistance, protection and fairness. When compassion does not drive our response to the suffering of either, we have failed one another," Kurtz said.

Bishop Paul Bradley of Kalamazoo, Mich., prayed to God on Twitter for help to live in peace.

Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik in a statement said that people must move away from judging one another based on race, religion, politics, sexual orientation or other descriptors. Along with that, he said, "There can be no competition for whose life matters most. Every life is precious in the eyes of God. So must it be so for us."

Zubik added that hatred, violence and anger are contagious, but "Our love and respect for one another must be more contagious."

"If someone does something violent, it is imperative for us to reach out to each other in kindness and with respect and refrain from blanket condemnations. We must build bridges. We must tear down walls. We must break the cycle of violence," he said. 

In his own statement, Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich said, "Every corner of our land is in the grip of terror fueled by anger, hatred and mental illness and made possible by plentiful, powerful weapons." The time is now, he said, "to break the cycle of violence and retaliation, of fear and powerlessness that puts more guns in our homes and on our streets." 

Cupich encouraged people to assemble to mourn those lost -- and to remember "the principle of non-violence they died protecting" -- but also to demonstrate strength and unity "until our leaders have the courage to take the actions that will make these tragedies less likely." 

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput cast attacks on police, "under any circumstances," an outrage and an act of violence against the broader community. The deaths of black men in Baton Rouge and St. Paul represent "a grave source of concern," he said, adding the shootings "aggravate racial resentments and make a tense national situation worse.​" The killings in all three cities has proven violence is not the answer and only serves to deepen national divides, he said. 

Before the shooting in Dallas, Baton Rouge Bishop Robert Muench said the recent events in his community and in the nation bring forward many emotions -- sadness, anger, frustration and fear -- but that “we are called to be ministers of healing to a hurting world.” Muench pointed to the parable of the Good Samaritan, which he said encourages everyone “to remember we are all companions on the journey” to eternal life, “called to support each other along the way, and be ambassadors of hope and mercy.”

“May fear not lead us into despair. May anger not move us to inflict pain upon others. Rather, moved by the grace of Christ’s suffering for us, may we in turn impart that grace to one another,” the bishop said.

Farrell also weighed in on the parable on his blog Thursday before the night’s terror. He quoted Francis, saying that “to ignore the suffering of another person is to ignore God.”

"'If I do not draw near to the man or woman or child or older person who is suffering,' -- with their sin and with their wounds -- 'I cannot draw near to God,'" the bishop quoted Francis saying.

[Brian Roewe is an NCR staff writer. His email address is broewe@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianRoewe.]


Just $5 a month supports NCR's independent Catholic journalism.

We are committed to keeping our online journalism open and available to as many readers as possible. To do that, we need your help. Join NCR Forward, our new membership program.

Forward-Web-Ads_End-of-Article-Ad---2.jpg


Looking for comments?

We've suspended comments on NCRonline.org for a while. If you missed that announcement, learn more about our decision here.

Advertisement