Pope Francis has shared his deep sorrow following a tragic event at Covenant School, a private Presbyterian Christian institution in Nashville. On March 27, a shooter took the lives of three 9-year-old students and three adult staff members before being killed in a gunfight with local police.

In a March 29 message, Pope Francis expressed his sadness, saying, “Deeply saddened to learn of the recent shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville, His Holiness Pope Francis asks you to convey his heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his prayers to all affected by this senseless act of violence.” The telegram was addressed to Bishop Mark Spalding of Nashville and signed by Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

The Pope’s message continued, stating that he “joins the entire community in mourning the children and adults who died and commends them to the loving embrace of the Lord Jesus.” Pope Francis also invoked the Holy Spirit’s consolation and strength for the families in mourning and prayed for their faith in the power of the risen Lord to heal and bring good from such terrible evil.

Bishop Spalding held a special Mass at the Cathedral of the Incarnation on March 27 to remember and pray for the victims. Police identified the shooter as Audrey Hale, a 28-year-old transgender woman who had once attended Covenant School as a child. Police Chief John Drake noted that the individual victims had not been specifically targeted, and the exact motive for the attack remains unknown. It is still uncertain if the school was targeted due to its Christian beliefs or if the date held any significance.

This incident marks the 19th shooting at a school or university in 2023 in which at least one person was injured in the United States.

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