The day after two NY Police Department officers were shot and killed while sitting in their patrol car, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York has sent a message of hope to the people of the biggest city in the United States.
Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were sitting in their patrol car in a crime-ridden part of Brooklyn on December 20 when the gunman walked up to the car and shot them in the head.
"Never is the hope of the good news of God's promise and fulfillment erased for a believer, and the more it is tested the stronger it gets," said Dolan.
The suspect has been identified by police as 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who had made threats on Instagram and had earlier that day shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend at her home, media reports said.
Brinsley was found dead later in the day in a subway station from a self-inflicted gun wound, said New York Police Commissioner William Bratton.
The day after the shooting Cardinal Dolan reflected on the killing in a homily during Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.
He said it be difficult to focus on the good news of the Gospel "as we mourn the brutal and irrational execution of two young, promising and devoted police officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.
He noted it was difficult as, "we tear-up thinking about their heartbroken families; as we are in solidarity with our police officers who experience a 'death in the family;' as we worry about a city tempted to tension and division."
USA Today reported back on November 11 that the number of felony suspects fatally shot by police last year - 461 - was the most in two decades, according to a report from the FBI.
DEATH OF MICHAEL BROWN
The December 20 killings occurred during nationwide protests over the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York. In both cases, grand juries chose not to charge white police officers involved in the deaths two black men.
In his homily, Cardinal Dolan reflected on the previous day's events.
"'Good news ' might seem distant, difficult, even indiscrete, as we anticipate the joy of Christmas four days away, and feel more like we're near Good Friday," he acknowledged.
The cardinal noted that December 21 marks the darkest day of the year, with the least sunlight of the year, Catholic News Agency reported.
He said early cultures were fearful at seeing this, he remarked, until they saw each year that the sun would return and days would begin getting longer.
In this way, Dolan observed, "fear was replaced with trust, as life and community went on, showing that nature and her God would always guarantee that light would conquer darkness."
In the same way the cardinal said that in the midst of darkness and fear, the Son of God brings light into the world, restoring love and hope in eternal life.
He pointed to Mary's experience of being asked to be the Mother of God, without being given a detailed blueprint.
"Fear; doubt; darkness; confusion; anxiety - all flood Mary's heart, yet she trusts, and she conceives a son who is to be the light of the world!"
Cardinal Dolan said, "I've learned in my six years here that, yes, New York, this huge, throbbing metropolis, can indeed be a place of hurt, darkness, fear, and fracture, that our celebrated grit and in-your-face realism can at times turn brash.
"But I've also learned that New York can also be that 'Little Town of Bethlehem,' from which comes, not darkness, division, and death, but light, unity, and life. That's New York! That's Bethlehem! That's Christmas!"