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Romney offers his prayers

Last modified: 7/21/2012 12:00:00 AM
Saying he stood before them not as a presidential candidate but as a husband and father, Mitt Romney yesterday offered prayers and condolences to the victims of a mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater.

"Our hearts break for the victims and their families," Romney said against a backdrop of an American flag and lumber stacks at Coastal Forest Products in Bow. "We pray that the wounded will recover and that those who are grieving will know the nearness of God."

In the days leading up to the New Hampshire event, the Romney campaign had clearly been preparing to talk about jobs, and President Obama's campaign was ready to talk about Romney's tax returns.

But after a masked gunman walked into a screening of the newly released Batman movie early yesterday, shot dozens of people and killed at least 12, the Obama campaign canceled all campaign events and Romney spoke only of the need for love and compassion.

"This is a time for each of us to look into our hearts and remember how much we love one another and how much . . . we care for our great country," Romney said. "There's so much love and goodness in the heart of America."

A Mormon church elder who rarely shows his spiritual side on the campaign trail, Romney encouraged his supporters to "offer comfort to someone near us who is suffering or heavy laden."

"The Apostle Paul explained, 'Blessed be the God who comforteth us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble,' " Romney said. "What we do know is how evil is overcome, and we're seeing that greater power today in the goodness and compassion of a wounded community."

Moments of evil can leave one feeling not only grief-stricken, but helpless, Romney conceded.

"But there is something we can do," he said. "We can offer comfort to someone near us who is suffering or heavy laden. And we can mourn with those who mourn in Colorado."

Romney, who often campaigns in rolled-up shirtsleeves, wore a tie and a navy blue blazer. The campaign played no music and hushed supporters who began getting restless as the sun began to beat down and the event fell behind schedule.

"We had a chant, but we didn't do it," said Nashua Republican Linda Twombly, 69, who hadn't heard about the shooting until she arrived at the Romney event. "They told us no."

The crowd hushed when an Anglican priest dressed in a white habit and sandals walked to the microphone.

Father Christian Tutor of All Saints Anglican Church in Concord later told reporters the campaign called him about 30 minutes before the event started because they wanted someone who could lead a prayer and make the event "a day of remembrance and of mourning."

Tutor encouraged the crowd of several hundred people to join him in prayer in whatever way was comfortable for them.

"We know that thou God, who are the designer and maker of all of us and the preserver of our nation, will give us the grace to move forward," Tutor said.

"We ask you, though, to comfort those who are now in sorrow and to give peace to all of us and to unite our nation underneath your great and holy name."

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte introduced Romney and extended the prayers of the people in New Hampshire to the people of Aurora, Colo.

The entire event lasted less than 10 minutes, and Romney spoke for less than five.

After he walked off the stage, the crowd applauded and then fell quiet. They didn't move until a campaign aide gestured that it was okay to.

Then Romney, Ayotte and Tutor formed a receiving line, greeting and hugging voters, many of them smiling and laughing.

Twombly waited for a moment with the candidate. She said Romney's speech was "admirable."

"It showed he has a heart," she said.

(Molly A.K. Connors can be reached at 369-3319 or mconnors@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @MAKConnors.)


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