Faith Leaders Offer Prayers after Shooting at a Pennsylvania Synagogue Leaves 11 Dead
On Saturday, October 27, Robert Gregory Bowers entered the Tree of Life Synagogue just outside of Pittsburg and gunned down 11 people.
ABC News reports that Bowers, opened fire with an AR-15 rifle and several other concealed weapons during a worship services, killing eleven people ranging from 54 to 97 years in age. According to authorities, Bowers voiced anti-sematic remarks after being obtained telling S.W.A.T. team members that "all these Jews need to die."
One survivor of the attack told the Associated Press that he was hiding in a supply closet with several other people when the gunman walked in. They worshippers hiding in the closet feared for their lives as the gunman “stepped over the body of a man he had just shot and killed, entered their darkened hiding spot and looked around.”
"I can't say anything, and I'm barely breathing," recalled Barry Werber, 76, in an interview with AP. Werber then expressed relief when saying, "He didn't see us, thank God."
According to ABC News, Tree of Life Synagogue houses three congregations and is a central hub for the Jewish community near Pittsburg.
At a vigil Sunday night, Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers noted that about 12 people had gathered in the synagogue's main sanctuary for Shabbat services when Bowers walked in and opened fire. Myers said, he lost seven congregants in attack.
"My holy place has been defiled," he lamented.
Stephen Cohen, co-president of New Light Congregation which is also housed in the Tree of Life Synagogue said "The loss is incalculable.”
Mayor Bill Peduto called the day of the attack, the "darkest day of Pittsburgh's history."
In the wake of this mass shooting driven by hate, religious leaders from many different faiths are speaking out and offering prayers.
In St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis led a prayer for the victims of this horrendous crime, their families and the city of Pittsburgh.
"In reality, all of us are wounded by this inhuman act of violence," Francis said. He continued asking God "to help us to extinguish the flames of hatred that develop in our societies, reinforcing the sense of humanity, respect for life and civil and moral values."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman issued a statement by the Chancellor on Twitter charging people to "confront anti-Semitism with determination — everywhere."
Along with the 11 dead, six people were injured, including four police officers during the attack.
Bowers was shot during the attempt to arrest him and is currently in custody.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, federal prosecutors are planning to pursue the death penalty.
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Jeff Swensen/Stringer