Pope Asks God's Consolation for Newtown Victims

Urges 'Acts of Peace' in This Advent

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI on Sunday again reiterated his closeness to the victims of a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

On Friday, a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 26 people, 20 of them children, before taking his own life. Before the shooting spree at the school, the 20-year-old suspect shot and killed his mother in the home they shared.

"I was deeply saddened by Friday's senseless violence in Newtown, Connecticut," the Pope said after praying the Angelus on Sunday with crowds in St. Peter's Square. "I assure the families of the victims, especially those who lost a child, of my closeness in prayer. May the God of consolation touch their hearts and ease their pain."

The Holy Father urged the faithful to make of this Advent season a time to "dedicate ourselves more fervently to prayer and to acts of peace."

"Upon those affected by this tragedy, and upon each of you, I invoke God's abundant blessings!" the Pontiff concluded.

Triumph over violence

Already on Friday, the Pope's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, released a message on the Pope's behalf.

"The Holy Father was promptly informed of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and he has asked me to convey his heartfelt grief and the assurance of this closeness in prayer to the victims and their families, and to all affected by the shocking event. In the aftermath of this senseless tragedy he asks God, our Father, to console all those who mourn and to sustain the entire community with the spiritual strength which triumphs over violence by the power of forgiveness, hope and reconciling love," that statement read.

National discussion

Friday's tragedy is the latest in a series of shootings in public places, though it is the second-deadliest in US history. Especially because of the young age of most of the victims (the 20 child-victims were 6 and 7 years old in the first grade of primary school), the massacre is generating widespread public debate, specifically on the issues of gun control and mental health.

The shooter used an assault rifle and fired between 50 and 100 shots.