People clapped, gasped and cried when a man pushed Father Joseph Terra into the room full of parishioners at St. Catherine of Siena on Monday.
Still in a wheelchair after being wounded last week during a break-in at Mater Misericordiae Mission that left a fellow priest dead, Terra didn’t move much. His hands were heavily bandaged, his eyes were bruised and swollen, and the top of his head was marked by fresh scars and dried blood.
The 56-year-old struggled to smile as well-wishers lined up to whisper in his ear. When asked about the man who is accused of injuring him and of killing Father Kenneth Walker, 28, Terra spoke softly.
“I have forgiven him,” he said.
Police announced the arrest of Gary Michael Moran, 54, on suspicion of breaking into the rectory and attacking the priests in what appeared to be a burglary gone wrong.
Phoenix Police Chief Daniel V. Garcia described Moran as a “career criminal” who had just completed a five-year prison term in April for a 2005 burglary at a home in which he stabbed the homeowner with a knife……Since the attack, the fraternity’s priests have spoken out for spiritual forgiveness, even for the seemingly unforgivable.
“There is always forgiveness. It’s important for us to remember the man who committed this act. … We should pray for him,” said fraternity member Father Carl Gismondi at St. Catherine’s, after a requiem Mass was held there for Walker. “The hardest part of Catholicism is to pray for those who persecute us.”
“What would he say to his attacker?” Father Eric Flood told mourners in remarks made in English during the ceremony, referring to Walker. “Surely it’s the same advice he would give to us. … Turn to God.”
Flood added that “heaven is still possible” for the attacker…