ROME (CNS) — Forty-nine votive candles burned in front of the altar in a Rome church as people gathered to pray for the victims of the massacre June 12 in an Orlando, Florida, nightclub.

The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See and Santa Susanna parish, the parish serving U.S. Catholics in Rome, planned the evening prayer service June 16. About 100 people attended.

Paulist Father Steve Bossi, vice rector of Santa Susanna, spoke about the need to build a culture where everyone is accepted.


Peace begins in each person’s daily life, he said. “If we are not at peace with those near us, how can we be at peace with those far away?”

In brief remarks at the service, Ken Hackett, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, said there is “no reason any individual needs to own an assault weapon.”

Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, 29, was identified by police as the lone gunman responsible for the massacre at the Pulse, a gay nightclub.  Police say he used a semi-automatic rifle and a semi-automatic pistol, both of which he purchased legally.

At the Rome prayer service, Hackett mentioned several victims by name and noted that “many were also a part of LGBT community, a community that has seen more than its share of suffering and tragedy.”

The vigil was planned to honor the victims, he said, and to send our “deepest and heartfelt condolences and prayers” to their families and friends.