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A Catholic bishop was killed in California over the weekend, investigators say

Bishop David O'Connell, seen above at a meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2021, is being remembered as a peacemaker and "truly a man of God."
Julio Cortez
/
AP
Bishop David O'Connell, seen above at a meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2021, is being remembered as a peacemaker and "truly a man of God."

Updated February 19, 2023 at 2:28 PM ET

A Catholic bishop who church leaders remembered as a "peacemaker" was found dead of a gunshot wound on Saturday.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announcedon Sunday that Los Angeles Archdiocese Auxiliary Bishop David O'Connell was killed and said it was working to find "those responsible" for his death. O'Connell was 69.

In response to the report that O'Connell was killed, Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez said, "We are deeply disturbed and saddened by this news."

One day earlier, Gomez said O'Connell had "passed away unexpectedly," but gave no additional details.

"It is a shock and I have no words to express my sadness," Gomez said.

"He was a peacemaker with a heart for the poor and the immigrant, and he had a passion for building a community where the sanctity and dignity of every human life was honored and protected," the archbishop added.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department previously said investigators responded to a shooting death at 12:57 p.m. on Saturday in the LA suburb of Hacienda Heights, where an adult male was pronounced dead.

"Bishop O'Connell was a guiding light for so many, and his legacy will continue to live on," the department said in a statement.

O'Connell was remembered as "truly a man of God"

O'Connell was born in County Cork, Ireland, and ordained in the Los Angeles Archdiocese in 1979, the diocesan news site Angelus News reported. Pope Francis named O'Connell an auxiliary bishop in 2015.

Over the years, O'Connell was a pastor at a number of parishes in Los Angeles and several nearby communities. He worked on efforts to curb violence in the city, and many of his congregants were minorities and immigrants.

"It's been the great joy of my life to be the pastor of these people, especially the ones who are suffering or in need or facing difficulty," O'Connell told Angelus News in 2015.

"And it's been a great privilege, a great blessing to be given these parishes all these years, to be pastor all these years. The people have touched my heart the way they are sincere," he added.

Gomez said O'Connell had served as a priest and later a bishop in Los Angeles for 45 years.

On Saturday, parishioners gathered at the scene of O'Connell's death and lit candles in memory of the religious leader, Los Angeles Daily News reporter Clara Harter tweeted.

Tributes to O'Connell also poured in on social media, where people expressed shock and sadness at the bishop's sudden death.

Norma Seni Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, called O'Connell "truly a man of God" in a tweet.

"Your sudden departure has left us extremely sad," Pimentel said. "[M]ay you rest in peace Bishop O'Connell."

Immigration attorney Linda Dakin-Grimm said O'Connell was "there for every child and family I have represented. Always. Helping, supporting and generally being the face of Jesus for me and many many others."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joe Hernandez