The bishops of the two Episcopal dioceses in Massachusetts are among the religious leaders issuing statements of support to the victims of Saturday’s attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue during a baby-naming ceremony that killed 11 people and injured 6, including four police officers.
The statement from Bishops Douglas J. Fisher, Alan M. Gates, Gayle E. Harris, also pushed back on President Donald Trump’s statement that the “results would have been far better” if the targeted Tree of Life synagogue had hired an armed guard.
“A ceremony celebrating new life has become the latest setting for the murderous intersection of bigotry, religious hatred and easy access to lethal weapons,” the bishops’ statement reads.
“We extend our deepest condolences, solidarity and kinship to our sisters and brothers at the Tree of Life synagogue and to the wider Jewish community throughout the nation upon the massacre today in Pittsburgh.”
It adds in part, “As people of faith, we also decry suggestions that the solution to such violence is further violence.”
“For national leaders to suggest that the solution is for our houses of worship (and by extension our schools, our movie theaters, our shopping centers and our outdoor concert venues) to be armed fortresses is to abdicate responsibility for addressing the root causes of this scourge,” the statement says.
“We continue to insist that our grief and anger must issue not only in compassion and prayer, not only in increased vigilance and security, but also in continued advocacy for measures which will resist the religious and ethnic bigotry and easy access to lethal weapons which are among those root causes.”
Fisher is bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts; Gates, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and Harris, bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.
Pope Francis issued a statement following the attack as did the the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“May the Lord help us to put out the hotbeds of hate that flare up in our societies, strengthening a sense of humanity, respect for life, moral and civil values and the holy fear of God, who is love and the father of all,” Francis said.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, USCCB president, said, “To our brothers and sisters of the Jewish community, we stand with you.
“We condemn all acts of violence and hate and yet again, call on our nation and public officials to confront the plague of gun violence,” said DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who was ordained a priest in the Pittsburgh diocese and now heads the Texas diocese of Galveston-Houston.
“Violence as a response to political, racial or religious differences must be confronted with all possible effort. God asks nothing less of us,” he said. “He begs us back to our common humanity as his sons and daughters.”
Authorities have arrested Robert Bowers as the suspected shooter, and were said to have recovered three Glock handguns and an AR-15 assault rifle from the synagogue. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Monday.
The 46-year-old Pittsburgh resident has been charged by federal prosecutors with 29 criminal counts including violence and firearms offences, and violating U.S. civil rights laws.
He is said to be in fair condition after being shot multiple times during the attack. He is reported to have an active license to own guns.
A year ago, a gunman killed 26 worshipers at a church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., and in 2015, a white supremacist killed nine congregants in a church in Charleston, S.C.
Saturday’s attack is believed to be the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the U.S., according to the Anti-Defamation League.
According to a CNN story quoting the ADL, it comes at a time when both anti-Semitic incidents and online harassment are on the rise.
Jewish leaders condemning the attack include Rabbi Elazar Muskin, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, who CNN quoted as saying “fringe elements of society” had become “emboldened by speech which is often disrespectful and hateful.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations called the attack “barbaric” and “an act of terror that affects us all.”
Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and Police Commissioner John Barbieri said Saturday in the wake of the synagogue attack that they had reached out to area synagogues and Springfield Jewish Community Center and will add “heightened police and security procedures and presence” to these places.