The morning he tragically passed in a helicopter accident, Kobe Bryant attended Mass at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newport Beach.

Father David Barnes of Boston University tweeted that:

“A friend texted me today to tell me that a friend of her’s saw #KobeBryant at #Catholic Mass this morning. Mass is the worship of God. Heaven is the worship of God. Go to Mass here so that you can worship God forever in heaven. There can be nothing more consoling to those who mourn than to know that a loved one worshipped God just before his death because worshiping God is what heaven is.”

Bryant was a regular attendee at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newport Beach. On Sunday at 7 a.m., about two hours before the tragic accident that took his life and the life of eight others, he celebrated Mass there.

Monday morning parishioners gathered there to mourn for the victims of the accident, leaving flowers, candles, signs and other items outside the church in their memory. One parishioner recalling their experiences with Bryant said “he will be missed – his spirit, his joy, his smile.”

“When I give him communion I have to put my arm and feet up like that so I can reach him. They are very humble people, you know.”

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles called Bryant a “very good Catholic, a faithful Catholic.”

“So very sad to hear the news of Kobe Bryant’s tragic death this morning. I am praying for him and his family. May he rest in peace and may our Blessed Mother Mary bring comfort to his loved ones. I remember one time going to the Lakers’ practice, and I had a good conversation with him. We are praying for the eternal repose of his soul, his daughter who also died and for the family. It must be a very challenging time for his family. So, let’s pray for him and pray for his family.” 

Singer Cristina Ballestero shared on Instagram a story of her encounter with Bryant at Holy Family Cathedral in Orange, California at a weekday Mass.

“As we went up to communion, he waited for me to go. If you grew up in the Catholic Church, you understand this is a respectful thing men do in church as a sign of respect to women. He said I have a beautiful voice. His most inspiring trait was his decision to turn to his faith in God and receive God’s mercy and to be a better man after a regretful decision.”

Kobe Bryant was a devout Catholic and father of four, raised in a Catholic family. Throughout his life, Bryant credited the Faith with helping him overcome personal stumbles including his legal matters when he was accused of assault.

“The one thing that really helped me during that process—I’m Catholic, I grew up Catholic, my kids are Catholic—was talking to a priest. It was actually kind of funny: He looks at me and says, ’Did you do it?’ And I say, ’Of course not.’ Then he asks, ’Do you have a good lawyer?’ And I’m like, ’Uh, yeah, he’s phenomenal.’ So then he just said, ’Let it go. Move on. God’s not going to give you anything you can’t handle, and it’s in his hands now. This is something you can’t control. So let it go.’ And that was the turning point.”

Bryant’s intertwined his Catholic Faith with the Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation, a foundation that helps fund youth homeless shelters and projects serving the poor. In 2012 he said:

“You have to do something that carries a little bit more weight to it, a little more significance, a little more purpose to it. Homelessness is one that kind of gets pushed on the back burner because it’s easy to point the blame at those who are homeless and say, ‘Well, you made that bad decision. This is where you are. It’s your fault.’ In life, we all make mistakes and to stand back and allow someone to live that way and kind of wash your hands of it – that’s not right.”

Funeral arrangements for Bryant and his daughter Gianna have not yet been announced.

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