Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
This weekend, requiem Masses are being said across the diocese of Oslo for those who died in the bomb attack in Oslo and the shootings at Utøya. Please pray for the happy repose of the souls of the deceased, for those who have been injured (some of whom are not in the clear), for those traumatised in the attacks, for the families, and for all those who have been affected by the attacks.
The influence of evil evident in the events is palpable and frightening; perhaps especially in the shootings at Utøya, where for over an hour the perpetrator walked apparently unhurriedly about the island dressed as a policeman to inspire confidence initially and presumably confusion and added dread as what was happening became clear to the participants at the camp, shooting down young people at will, calmly scouring the island for new victims, looking for signs of life to be extinguished in those who were lying on the ground, attempting to shoot down those who had managed to jump into the water and were swimming for their lives. After the shock of having someone who came in the guise of a policeman bearing news of the bomb blast in Oslo suddenly shooting at them, many had difficulties trusting the brave civilians who came in their boats while the killing spree was still going on to rescue whoever they could, and initially also the real police as they came on the scene. It is the stuff of nightmares, the killer calmly walking after intended victims desperately searching for somewhere to hide or a route of escape and not knowing who to trust even when help eventually was offered.
Yet, while it may be an unpopular suggestion, I believe that we should also pray for the perpetrator and all the more for the evil evident in his actions. It is not a matter of whether or not he in justice deserves charity, but whether we are in justice bound to offer charity in response to that offered to us by God so wholly undeservedly, and following the command to love. Love does not mean being blind or naive or not pursuing the path of secular justice. It does mean praying for the conversion and salvation of all, and not actively desiring that anyone receive the eternal punishment due for their sins in justice but that they will rather be opened up to God’s mercy. Evil is not vanquished by evil. It is vanquished by love in union with that divine love which showed itself in the sacrifice of Christ. So in all this, and bearing in mind that it would undoubtedly take an act of heroic charity that should not be expected or demanded for those directly involved to offer such prayers at this time, I do not believe that we can afford to neglect prayers for the perpetrator. (And obviously for his family who must also be suffering terribly at this time.)