CHICAGO – A Chicago priest active in a hotel workers union blessed the Las Vegas hotel room where a sniper fired shots at attendees of a music festival.
The Rev. Clete Kiley told the Chicago Sun-Times he felt surrounded by "the mystery of evil" when he conducted a Roman Catholic Church ritual last week on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
"It was eerie and still, the stage where the carnage began, where the shooter had holed himself up in a luxury suite, broken a window and used it as a perch to murder . . . people and shoot 500 more," he said.
Stephen Paddock on Oct. 1 fired on the Route 91 Harvest Festival on the Las Vegas Strip, killing 58 and wounding 500.
The priest performed the ritual last week at the request of the Unite Here union of hotel workers. He said hotel workers had been given grief counseling and words of encouragement, but were hesitating to go back onto the floor.
Kiley said after the FBI returned the floor to the hotel, he took a glass of water and a palm branch from a tree in the lobby of the Mandalay Bay hotel to conduct the spiritual cleansing.
"As we opened the temporary door installed to seal the crime scene, I have to say it felt like I was pushed back — as if to keep me from entering," he said. "In my mind, I found myself saying to myself: 'Oh no, you have to go.' I instinctively began to pray in silence: 'St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Protect us against the wickedness and snares of the devil.'"
He said the hallway outside the room was littered with plaster from the walls where the barrage of bullets hit, and broken light fixtures were still where they fell on the hallway floor. He said the place on the floor where Paddock died was marked, but there was no sign of blood.
Kiley said he blessed the water, his companion and himself and then every corner of the suite. He also blessed every room along the hallway, saying he used the prayer for the blessing of the house. He added he expects other faith traditions will be invited to pray there.