By Rhina Guidos
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON — During a January visit with Vatican officials to report on the status of his diocese, Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, mentioned to Pope Francis the tragic events that took place at home Aug. 3, 2019.
“I mentioned the mass shooting we experienced on August 3. I asked the Holy Father whether he’d be willing to send a blessing” to the 22 families who had a member killed and the 24 injured when a mass shooter opened fire on them at a local Walmart, Bishop Seitz recalled during a video released by the Diocese of El Paso Jan. 31.
The pope asked him if he could take a rosary to them on his behalf. But when he asked how many rosaries he needed, the bishop said he didn’t want to be “greedy,” so he only asked for 20.
“He summoned an aid and later they brought in a bag during meeting, a white bag and I could tell there was something (inside),” he recalled. “I assumed it was 20 rosaries, so at end of the meeting he called me forward and he handed me personally this white bag. It was heavy.”
But instead of the 20, it had 50 rosaries.
“I’ll be able to offer (the rosaries) with his blessing to each of the families directly impacted by those terrible events,” said Bishop Seitz.
He said he’s asking the public for help locating all the families of the injured or the dead. Many priests from his diocese responded within minutes and administered last rites to some of the victims.
“It was obvious that Pope Francis was moved to hear about our loss when I described how a man filled with hatred came from far away in order to kill as many Mexican people, as many immigrants, as he could,” Bishop Seitz said, recalling the shooting. “I could tell the pope was very moved. I think we can be assured of his prayers.”
He said he asked Pope Francis to pray for El Paso as the community continues to heal. The diocese will be hosting a prayer service in February to mark six months since the El Paso shooting, he said, encouraging anyone who knows the victims or their families to have them call the diocese’s pastoral center so they can receive one of the rosaries.
Bishop Seitz met with the pope as part of an “ad limina” visit that heads of dioceses from around the world make to the Vatican.