UVALDE, Texas – Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, the leader of the San Antonio Archdiocese and one of the top two Catholic leaders in Texas, shared his thoughts about Gov. Greg Abbott’s handling of the Uvalde school shooting massacre in an emotional interview.
“We don’t need to show power at this time. Power, at this time, and it will be for a while, diminishes people. We need you to accompany them. To walk with them,” Garcia-Siller said in an exclusive interview with ABC News reporter John Quinones. “If mistakes were made, walk with them to resolve them. Don’t bring all that power and all those arms and all that control.”
Abbott, a practicing Roman Catholic, has been sharply criticized for sharing misinformation about the police response in the aftermath of the shooting. He was also widely lambasted for a phrase he used at the press conference: “It could have been worse. The reason it was not worse is because law enforcement officials did what they do.”
The governor also received public backlash for attending a fundraiser for several hours in East Texas after he learned of the shooting. Some have called on him to spend more time in Uvalde after he didn’t attend any of the funerals for the 21 victims. Abbott’s office said he was honoring families’ requests for private ceremonies.
“I would invite the governor to love his people,” Garcia-Siller said. “To love is to live... That is what people need... There are always opportunities to love in little ways. And that builds trust in people here. To love we need to be vulnerable. (There) is no power and control that changes things.”
Abbott has also been condemned for not calling a special session to address lax gun laws, including 18-year-olds being able to legally purchase assault-style weapons with no training. The Uvalde City Council, Uvalde County Commissioners and Uvalde CISD School Board have all urged Abbott to call a special session. Both state lawmakers who represent Uvalde have also urged Abbott to call a special session. Instead, Abbott appointed special committees to come up with recommendations to make schools safer ahead of next year’s legislative session.
The archbishop also apparently criticized Abbott for blaming mental health, and not a lack of gun laws, as the main reason for the shooting that claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary.
Garcia-Siller said that the tragedy happening in Uvalde doesn’t mean that “everyone in this town has a mental illness.”
“There are people with mental illness, and we have created societies that foster mental illness. But this community has fruits. There have been generations here... Not everyone is sick in this town,” he said.
Garcia-Siller has been traveling to Uvalde to grieve with and support the community as it grapples with the horrific shooting. He has spent time with the residents and leads Mass services for the community.
Garcia-Siller was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 and is one of 34 archbishops in the United States. Texas has two archdioceses.
The San Antonio Archdiocese leads a Catholic population of 800,000, including 160 priests, 139 parishes and 19 counties, including Uvalde.