Pope Francis has expressed his “spiritual closeness” to those affected by the deadly shooting in Las Vegas, which left more than fifty people dead, and hundreds more wounded, the Vatican Radio reported.

In the telegram addressed to the Bishop Joseph Anthony Pepe of Las Vegas, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said Pope Francis was “deeply saddened” to learn of “this senseless tragedy.” The Holy Father, he said, “commends the He commends the efforts of the police and emergency service personnel, and offers the promise of his prayers for the injured and for all who have died, entrusting them to the merciful love of Almighty God.”

The attack in Las Vegas is being described as the deadliest mass shooting in United States history. The gunman, identified by police as Stephen Paddock, died at the scene. Police said he fired from the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas Strip casino onto an outdoor country music festival Sunday night.

Meanwhile, Las Vegas Bishop Joseph A. Pepe told those filling the pews Oct. 2 that “in the face of tragedy we need each other.”

At an emotional interfaith prayer service at Guardian Angel Cathedral, Bishop Pepe stressed “in the face of violence, we stand together because we cannot let hate and violence have the last word.”

“We gather from all faiths and walks of life. We pray and sing and listen to the word of God to remind ourselves that amidst this tragedy, God is with us,” Bishop Pepe said. “God cries with our tears.”

He quoted the evening Scripture passage from Chapter 29 of the Book of Jeremiah: “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for well-being, and not for calamity, in order to give you a future and a hope.”

“We come together in unity across our religious traditions, across race, across gender to stand with each other as living signs of that hope,” Bishop Pepe said.

The service at the cathedral brought people together as they were still trying to fathom what had occurred barely 24 hours earlier: A crazed gunman, later identified by law enforcement officials as Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, showered with bullets a crowd of about 22,000 attending a country music festival in a venue on the Las Vegas Strip the evening of Oct. 1.

From his perch in a room high on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino resort hotel, he fired off hundreds of rounds of bullets down on the crowd below, ultimately leaving at least 59 people dead and more than 500 injured. It is the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

– with reports from CNS

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