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Black Catholic leaders speak out on Uvalde shooting

The latest US mass shooting occurred Tuesday in Texas, the worst since Sandy Hook in 2012. Black Catholics around the country—and the pope—have responded.

Guadalupe Camacho Alvarez at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Uvalde on Tuesday. Her granddaughter survived Tuesday’s shooting. (Sergio Flores/Texas Tribune)

UVALDE, Texas — On Tuesday in South Texas, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos entered Robb Elementary School with an AR-15 style rifle and opened fire, leaving 19 students and two teachers dead after having taken the life of his own grandmother beforehand.

It was the 27th school shooting in the US so far this year, the deadliest since 26 lives were lost in 2012 at Sandy Hook in Connecticut, and the deadliest in Texas history.

The massacre took place in Uvalde, a predominantly-Hispanic town roughly 50 miles from the US-Mexico border, and came just 10 days after another mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, where 10 African Americans were gunned down by a White Supremacist in a grocery store.

Reactions to Tuesday’s events have poured in from Catholic commentators, politicians, and religious leaders around the globe.

Shortly after news of the Texas shooting broke, Rep. Adriano Espaillat of New York—an Afro-Latino and one of Congress’ two Black Catholics—spoke out on social media, calling for legislation to end the proliferation of deadly weapons.

“My heart breaks with each tragedy like this,” he said.

“Until we reform our gun laws, we are failing our children and families.”

Last month, Espaillat met with President Joe Biden to discuss the Ghost Guns are Guns Act, legislation he has introduced in every Congress since 2017 to curb the sale of gun parts and kits without background checks.

Co-sponsoring the bill, most recently brought to the floor in March, was Rep. Anthony G. Brown of Maryland, Congress’ other Black Catholic member. He is currently running for state attorney general and has listed gun control as one of his top priorities.

On Tuesday afternoon, he called the Uvalde shooting part of a “cycle”.

“We have to muster the courage to do something to stop this from happening again and again and again,” he said.

“Children should be safe in school.”

Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington—who did not speak publicly on the shooting in Buffalo earlier this month—broke nearly 7 weeks of social media silence early Wednesday morning, noting he will include prayers for the victims of both shootings as he visits two DC-area Catholic schools later today.

“Our kids must believe they are cherished & safe,” he said.

“These acts must stop now!”

Gregory's fellow Black prelate in Washington, Auxiliary Bishop Roy E. Campbell Jr spoke out on the shooting in his capacity as president of the National Black Catholic Congress.

“Our society must realize the ‘constitutional right to bear arms’ is not a legitimate right when it infringes on, takes away, or otherwise discards another’s right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’,” he said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.

“We commend the souls of those lost in yesterday’s shooting to the mercy of our loving God, and may he have mercy on the soul of the perpetrator of these killings.”

News of the shooting broke just hours before a national prayer service for Buffalo victims held Tuesday night by the Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary—led in part by Bishop Emeritus Martin Holley of Memphis, the KPC national chaplain.

Deacon Albert Anderson Jr of St Joseph Catholic Church, a Josephite parish in Alexandria, Virginia, made an impromptu addition of the Uvalde victims to the litany he led as part of the virtual event.

Trevon Bosley, a nationally known gun control advocate and longtime member of B.R.A.V.E (Bold Resistance Against Violence Everywhere) Youth Leaders—an anti-violence ministry out of St Sabina Catholic Church in Chicago—spoke out on the Uvalde tragedy with poignant brevity.

“Sh*t really crazy,” he said bluntly on social media.

During his General Audience today in Rome, Pope Francis also lamented the Uvalde tragedy, calling it a symptom of the “indiscriminate trafficking of arms”.

“It is time to say, ‘Enough.’” he told the assembled crowd in Saint Peter’s Square.

“Let us all commit ourselves so that such tragedies can never happen again.”

Update (5/25): Comments added from Auxiliary Bishop Roy E. Campbell Jr of Washington.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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