Police crime tape is seen around the area where children's bicycles and baby strollers stand near the scene of the Fourth of July parade shooting in Highland Park, Illinois on July 4, 2022. Police crime tape is seen around the area where children's bicycles and baby strollers stand near the scene of the Fourth of July parade shooting in Highland Park, Illinois on July 4, 2022. 

Cardinal Cupich on shootings: We must remove 'weapons of war' from our streets

In an interview with Vatican News, Cardinal Blase Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, says something must change so that profits stop driving this gun violence 'enslaving' the United States. His words come in the wake of the Fourth of July shooting in a Chicago suburb.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Cardinal Blase Cupich says that weapons of war should not be in the hands of people on a daily basis, and suggests that the Holy Father's call for a culture of nonviolence be taken seriously so that it becomes a reality.

In an interview with Vatican News, Cardinal Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, condemns the tragic shooting during a Fourth of July celebration in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, and speaks about how his Archdiocese is working to comfort those affected and traumatized by the deadly events.

On Monday, a gunman on a rooftop opened fire on an Independence Day parade in the affluent Chicago suburb killing at least six people and wounding at least 30 others. Police identified Robert E. Crimo III as a person of interest in the shooting and after an hours-long manhunt, the suspect was taken into police custody. 

The Fourth of July shooting marks the latest tragic shooting in the country, and takes place in the light of hundreds of others during 2022 that have plagued schools, churches, grocery stores and public events.

In this interview, the Archbishop of Chicago reacts to the tragedy, the greater situation of rampant shootings taking place across the United States, and the Holy Father’s appeals against the indiscriminate trafficking of arms. Saying "humanity must evolve," Cardinal Cupich "warns that the profits being made from arms trafficking" are resulting in an "enslavement of our country in a culture of violence."

Cardinal, what is your reaction to the tragic shooting yesterday during the Fourth of July celebrations?

Cardinal Blase Cupich: Well, first of all, it was 'not again, please, not again,' because we have had so much violence, not only here in Chicagoland, but across the nation. Every day in the United States, 300 people are shot and over 100 are killed, each and every day. And five of those are children who die every day of gun violence. So I was just heartbroken that this visited our area once again, but also outraged that this continues to go unabated in our country.

Listen to our full interview with Cardinal Cupich:

How would you describe the situation of violence in Chicago currently and what is being done to combat it?

Well, this year, measures have been taken by law enforcement and civic officials so that the amount of gun violence is being addressed in a serious way. But they are hamstrung by the fact that we do not have sufficient laws in this country that allow for the restriction of especially high-powered weapons as the one that was used yesterday. There's no reason why.

“We should not be able to allow people to possess and have access to bring into the streets weapons of war. Something has to change.”

There has to be, of course, due diligence with regard to safety procedures. But we also have to keep in mind that the right to bear arms in this country should allow for prudential judgment in interpreting the Second Amendment and enacting laws that take away these weapons of war from our streets. So until that is done, law enforcement, local law enforcement, and civic officials have difficulty in curbing the violence, even more so.

There have been more than 200 mass shootings in the United States since the start of this year. Do you have an appeal to make in light of the scores of shootings taking place across the country?

Yes, of course, mass shootings depend on weapons of violence that have huge magazines of bullets in them, as the one used yesterday.

“My hope would be that there would be a way in which we would be able to make sure that these weapons of war cannot be in the hands of people on a daily basis.”

They belong in gun clubs. They should be locked up, used only at places [like] firing ranges and so on. There's no reason for them to be on our streets, and I think that this is part of the issue with regard to these 200 mass shootings in our country this year. We have to do something. As I said earlier, the Second Amendment did not come down from Mount Sinai. We need to exercise prudential judgment in interpreting the Second Amendment, and we have to deal with this in a way that's responsible.

Pope Francis had just sent you a telegram expressing his sadness for the tragic attacks. And many times the Pope has decried the shootings in the country and the indiscriminate trafficking of arms. How is his message reaching and significant to the United States?

We're going to continue to use that message in our country. Slowly, hopefully, people are becoming aware of the need to listen to the Holy Father's word. Let's not sidestep the whole issue. This is about money. It's about people making money off these weapons of war to the enslavement of our country in a culture of violence. And as the Holy Father told us in a letter that he wrote to people here in Chicago in 2016, humanity has to evolve, quoting Martin Luther King, in a way that rejects vengeance, aggression and retaliation. 

“When weapons of war are so easily accessible to people who want to carry out revenge, aggression and retaliation, we find ourselves in a very dangerous situation.”

So my hope would be that the message of the Holy Father would permeate our American psyche, to realize that we have to build a culture of nonviolence that is not just a dream, but becomes a reality.

What is your reaction to the fact that this tragic shooting happened on the Fourth of July?

Well, instead of people marching in a parade, parents were forced to flee violence in the streets with their children in their arms. Instead of fireworks, gunfire filled the air. Instead of a celebration of freedom and liberty, people were victimized by our nation's enslavement to guns. And instead of a peaceful day, a weapon of war ruled the day.

Are there certain ways to remember the victims planned in Chicago in these days?

This evening I'm going to Immaculate Conception Parish in Highland Park to comfort those who were victimized by this gun violence, but also their family members, and to pray with the entire community as a means of bringing comfort to them. I think that it's important for the Church to act in this moment - in the words of the Holy Father - as a field hospital. That is what we're going to be doing this evening. We're going to touch the wound of people who are suffering and not only physically, but emotionally from the trauma of yesterday.

Parade attendees try to flee after gunshots fired during Highland Park parade
Parade attendees try to flee after gunshots fired during Highland Park parade

Since the interview was published, the Cardinal visited Immaculate Conception Church in Highland Park, where he gave the following homily:

Homily by Cardinal Blase Cupich - Archbishop of Chicago

Mass of Comfort and Healing - Immaculate Conception Church

Highland Park, IL - July 5, 2022

We come together this night to find comfort in a moment of shocking tragedy. Comfort comes in just being together and in the shared faith that God never abandons us. For the God who sent his only Son Jesus into the world to fully share in our life with all of its joys and hopes, its griefs and sorrows, is near us.

We grieve the loss of the seven victims killed and pray for the full and speedy recovery of the more than two dozen wounded and the healing of all the survivors. And we pray in thanksgiving for all the law enforcement and medical first responders and civil leaders who stepped up once again to serve and protect.

Yesterday, citizens of Highland Park took pride in being Americans, Americans who just wanted to celebrate our nation’s 246th birthday. Yet, instead of families marching in a parade, parents were force to cradle their children in their arms and flee violence in the streets. Instead of fireworks, rapid gun fire filled the air. Instead of a celebration of freedom and liberty, people were victimized by our nation’s enslavement to guns. Instead of a day to celebrate peace and freedom, a weapon of war and terror ruled the day.

There have been over 300 mass shootings in our country since the start of this year. Not one week in 2022 has gone by without at least four mass shootings. Every year, nearly 120,000 people are shot, over 40,000 of whom die.  8,000 of those shot are children and teens and nearly 2,000 of them die from gun violence in the United States.

As we listen to these chilling statistics, this very bad news, we need to hear the Good News of the Gospel. Yesterday at the very hour of the shooting, the Gospel passage we just heard from the ninth chapter of Matthew was being proclaimed in many churches in Chicagoland. It portrays Jesus bringing healing to an elderly woman and a young girl. It is striking how the healings come in such simple, uncomplicated ways. The touch of Jesus’ cloak and a comforting word to the woman; the taking of the little girl’s hand and lifting her up from her sick bed. These scenes remind us that God’s grace most often comes in simple and very natural human actions.

They tell the story of a young boy, who heard that his neighbor lost his wife of 60 years. A few days after the funeral, the five year old saw the old man sitting on his porch weeping. He went up to him and sat on his lap for more than an hour. Later the boy’s mother asked her son, “what did you say to him.” The boy simply answered, “nothing, I just helped him cry.”

God’s comforting grace comes in such simple gestures. We have no words to make sense of this senseless tragedy. We are here just to help each other cry, to lift up each other by the hand, to let other’s touch us with their suffering and pain.

But, that simplicity should also move us to take action that should be so simple. We cannot allow the debate over securing society’s safety through reasonable laws that govern the possession of firearms to become overly complicated. We should not make this so difficult. Whatever one makes of the right to bear arms, it should not paralyze us from enacting serious, broadly popular gun-safety measures. The right to bear arms does not eclipse the right to life, or the right of all Americans to go about their lives free of the fear that they might be shredded by bullets from weapons of war at any moment. Gun violence is a life issue and high-powered weapons have no place on our streets.

God’s grace comes to us this night in the simple gestures of drawing close to one another’s pain and suffering, in lifting up each other by the hand and by just sitting in silence to help each other cry. But this divine grace also urges us to put aside over-thinking, over-complicating the effort to move ahead with a common-sense response, our common desire to keep each other safe. Let our prayer be that of Pope Francis, who sent us his message of support this morning: "With unwavering faith that the grace of God is able to convert even the hardest of hearts, making it possible to depart from evil and do good, may every member of society reject violence in all of its forms and respect life in all of its stages."

Let his simple prayer open us to receive the grace of God that comes in simple ways, a grace that liberates us to have the courage to end this scourge of gun violence, and a grace that reminds us that we live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

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05 July 2022, 14:09