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Pope Francis "deeply saddened" by Shooting at Prague University 

People mourn outside the Charles University building following a mass shooting yesterday, on Dec. 22, 2023, in Prague, Czech Republic. Fourteen people were killed and 25 injured. Police say the gunman was a 24-year-old student at the university. | Credit: Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images

Pope Francis offered his condolences on Friday morning after 14 people were killed and 25 injured in a mass shooting at a university in Prague.

A statement released by the Vatican on Dec. 22 said that the pope was “deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and injuries caused by the shooting at Charles University.”

“Pope Francis expresses his spiritual closeness to all affected by this tragedy. Entrusting those who have died to the loving mercy of Almighty God, His Holiness invokes divine strength and consolation upon their grieving families and friends, and he assures the nation of his prayers at this difficult time,” said the message sent on the pope’s behalf by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state.

The shooting on Thursday was the first-ever school shooting in the Czech Republic and the worst mass shooting in the country’s history, according to the Associated Press.

A 24-year-old Czech university student opened fire in the university’s philosophy department building after first killing his father in his hometown outside of Prague. The gunman killed himself after the shooting rampage.

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Among the injured were two people from the United Arab Emirates and one Dutch citizen.

Archbishop Jan Graubner of Prague expressed deep sadness in response to the shooting and said that priests in Prague are available to provide spiritual support via a hotline set up in response to the tragedy.

“I pray for the dead, their families, loved ones, and friends, and also for the healing of all the injured,” the archbishop said on Dec. 21.

“I am asking the Lord to bring comfort to everyone in this pre-Christmas season and to help overcome the pain and sadness.”

The Catholic Archdiocese of Prague will host a memorial Mass for the victims of the shooting on Dec. 23 at 11 a.m. in Prague’s Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus, and Adalbert, which will be open to all who wish to honor and pray for the victims.

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Cardinal Dominik Duka, the archbishop emeritus of Prague, and Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, the apostolic nuncio to the Czech Republic, will concelebrate the Mass with Archbishop Graubner, which will be broadcast live on Czech television.

Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.