Catholics join prayers for Amish school shooting victims

Pennsylvania Bishop Kevin Rhoades has called on Catholics to join in prayers for the child victims of a gunman and for the building of a culture of life and peace.

Bishop Rhoades said that the parishes and schools in his diocese were united in prayer with a Pennsylvania Amish community reeling from a gunman's shooting spree in a one-room school the day before that left five girls dead and five others injured.

In comments addressed to the Pennsylvania Amish community, Bishop Rhoades said that Catholics are "with you in prayer in the aftermath of the terrible tragedy," Catholic News Service reports.

"I extend deep sympathy and prayerful remembrance to all our brothers and sisters in the Amish community of Lancaster County. Our hearts go out to you during this time of sorrow."

According to the Pennsylvania state police, a 32-year-old man identified as Charles Carl Roberts IV stormed into a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County on Monday with a rifle, a shotgun and other weapons.

After making the boys and adults leave, police said, he barricaded the door, chained the girls together in a row at the blackboard and shot them "execution style." By the time police broke into the school, he had killed himself.

Five children have now died while five other children remained hospitalised, with four of them still in critical condition.

According to Pennsylvania police commissioner Jeffrey Miller, Mr Roberts left his wife and children each a note, and in the note to his wife he described his anguish over the death of their daughter.

"Some sort of an issue in his past" apparently prompted him "to exact revenge against female victims," the police commissioner said. There is evidence he had planned to molest the girls in the school.

The incident on Monday was the third fatal school shooting in the US in less than a week.

"We pray for an end to all violence in our society, especially in our schools," Bishop Rhoades said.

"May the Lord, the prince of peace, protect us, particularly our children, from all harm and help us to build a culture of life and peace in our community, in our nation and in our world."

An Ekklesia report adds that a cousin of one of the children shot by Roberts has said in an interview that he believes Mr Roberts' wife would be welcome at the funeral of the girls who died.

Ekklesia says the Amish community in Pennsylvania - who descended from German Anabaptists - is in "deep shock" over the events. But they continue to be sustained by the love of God, and by a strong belief in non-violence and the power of forgiveness.


Amish sustained by forgiveness after killings (Ekklesia, 4/10/06)

Bishop says Catholics praying for Amish community after shooting (Catholic News, 4/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Amish (Wikipedia)
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, Harrisburg diocese

5 Oct 2006