Pope Francis in prayer Pope Francis in prayer 

Pope Francis saddened by California shooting

In a telegram sent to Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles, Pope Francis expresses sadness, offers prayers, and decries a recent California shooting that claimed 11 lives and wounded several others, in Monterey Park, during Lunar New Year celebrations.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Pope Francis has expressed his great sadness for the tragic shootings that killed eleven people during Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, California, last weekend.

The Holy Father's message came on Wednesday in a telegram sent on his behalf by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and addressed to the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Archbishop José H. Gómez.

In it, he said he was "deeply saddened" to learn of the shooting that took place in the US.

Commending souls to God's loving mercy

Assuring those affected by this tragedy of his spiritual closeness, the Pope said, he "joins the entire community in commending the souls of those who died to Almighty God's loving mercy."

The Holy Father also implored "the divine gifts of healing and consolation upon the injured and bereaved."

Pope Francis concluded, by sending his Apostolic Blessing "as a pledge of strength and peace in the Lord."

The tragic events

A gunman in California shot dead numerous people in the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, during Lunar New Year celebrations on Saturday.

Currently, 11 people have died and nine others remain injured.

While the motives of the shooting suspect, who ultimately committed suicide, are unclear, Monterey Park is home to a very large Asian community.

Nearby the dance club on the outskirts of Los Angeles, small businesses are adorned with signs in both English and Chinese, and many locals speak Cantonese and Mandarin.

According to the Associated Press, the suspect was found dead on Sunday, apparently having died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a van. Authorities say he fled in the van after people thwarted his attempt to perpetrate a second shooting at the Lai Lai Ballroom in the nearby city of Alhambra on Saturday night.

Shooting details

Los Angeles County Sheriff, Robert Luna, identified the man as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, and said no other suspects were at large.

The sheriff said the motive remained unclear for the attack.

Speaking at a Sunday evening news conference, Sheriff Luna said he did not have the exact ages of the victims, but added that all those killed appeared to be over age 50.

The weapon, he said, was a semi-automatic pistol with an extended magazine, noting a second handgun was discovered in the van where Tran died.

While the Lunar New Year celebrations in Monterey Park were to be one of California’s largest, with two days of festivities planned and some 100,000 people set to attend, officials cancelled Sunday’s events following the shooting.

Archbishop Gomez's closeness

Archbishop Gomez also mourned the victims and prayed for all affected.

In a statement issued on Sunday, he said, “We pray for those killed and injured in this shooting" and "ask God stay close to their families and loved ones.”

“We pray for the wounded to be healed, and ask that God give strength and guidance to the doctors and nurses who are caring for them," he said.

Fifth mass killing this month

This dance club massacre was the fifth mass killing this month in the United States.

In a back-to-back mass shooting in northern California just two days afterwards, seven people were shot dead in the coastal city of Half Moon Bay. And just over a week ago, six people including a teenage mother and baby were killed at a property in Goshen, central California. 

The Monterey Park shooting in marks the country's deadliest attack since 24 May 2022, when 21 were killed in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

The Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, visited Monterey Park on Sunday, meeting with victims, their families, and local officials.

US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden said they were thinking of those killed and wounded.

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25 January 2023, 14:31