Benedictines Focus on Forgiveness After Murder of Monks

Missouri Officials Link Gunman´s Motives to His Divorce

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CONCEPTION, Missouri, JUNE 14, 2002 ( The gunman who killed two monks at a Benedictine abbey may have harbored a grudge against the Church because of his divorce, authorities say.

In the wake of the Monday attack that also left two other monks wounded, the community at Conception Abbey was now focusing on prayer and forgiveness, Abbot Gregory Polan told the Vidimus Dominum news service.

A funeral Mass was to be held today at the abbey for Brother Damian Larson, 62, and Father Philip Schuster, 84, who were slain by a lone gunman, Lloyd Robert Jeffress, after they tried to stop him at the threshold of the abbey church.

Jeffress, 71, later killed himself at the abbey, located 90 miles (144 kilometers) north of Kansas City.

The Kansas City Star newspaper reported that authorities believe the gunman had nursed a grudge against the Church because of his divorce.

Sergeant Sheldon Lyon of the Missouri Highway Patrol told the newspaper he wasn´t sure when Jeffress and his wife divorced but it was years ago. Earlier, Lyon said Jeffress´ daughter had not seen her father in 40 years and that she was raised by her mother.

In an interview with Kansas City´s diocesan weekly newspaper, The Catholic Key, Father Polan noted that the monastery´s church was reconsecrated on Wednesday and that the community was living these days in a spirit of “forgiveness.”

“That is just a basic element that may not be easy,” he explained. But it is “a hallmark of our community,” he said. “We welcome people in a spirit of hospitality. The notion of forgiveness is strongly on our mind.”

There is also another lesson to be drawn, according to the abbot. When “you see a man who experienced significant problems mentally, emotionally, spiritually, [it] … gives us a way to open our hearts to someone who, in one sense, can´t ever be held responsible for what he did.”

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