A couple embraces at the foot of the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Oct. 23. Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed the previous day while on duty at the memorial.

CNS PHOTO | COLE BURSTON, EPA

A couple embraces at the foot of the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Oct. 23. Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed the previous day while on duty at the memorial.

November 3, 2014
DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

OTTAWA - Recalling the words of Pope St. John Paul II, Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast called upon Canadians not to be afraid in the wake of the Oct. 22 shooting that left a Canadian soldier dead.

In an email interview a day after the incident, Prendergast noted that the violence occurred on the feast of St. John Paul and recalled the saint's first words when he was elected pope in 1978 were, "Don't be afraid! Open your hearts wide to Christ."

"These words apply most appropriately to this present moment in our life in the nation's capital, but they speak also to all Canadians," the archbishop wrote.

Authorities said a gunman killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a member of the army reserves from Hamilton, Ont., who was guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial blocks from Parliament.

The assailant, whom police identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, made his way to Parliament where he fired multiple times before he was shot and killed.

The events forced lawmakers to barricade themselves inside their Parliament offices.

"God is still the Lord of our lives and is at work in the hearts of the bystanders who attempted CPR, called the police and other first responders who showed themselves courageous in putting their lives at risk in a moment of crisis," Prendergast said.

"We have much to be grateful for. To live with moral certitude is to presume people mean me/us well and we should live out of that conviction.

"And while remaining alert to signs of behaviour that can be harmful, we need to go about our business as the friendly and welcoming people I have come to know Ottawans to be," he said.

The morning of the shootings, Prendergast was in a Toronto church celebrating the funeral of a friend when he first heard the news.

Prendergast was planning on an afternoon flight back to Ottawa so he could host his annual Archbishop's Charity Dinner that evening. More than 700 tickets had been sold.

He and his staff decided to cancel the dinner in the wake of the shootings. The food that had been prepared was delivered to the Shepherds of Good Hope for distribution to Ottawa's needy residents.

In a press release announcing the cancellation, Prendergast offered prayers for the victims. "Let us offer our prayers to God in support of those who have been most affected by today's events.

"As we do, let us also thank God for the beauty of our country and for the blessings of peace and security which are the blessings bestowed upon Canadians," the statement said.