20 February 2023, The Tablet

Los Angeles bishop shot dead

Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell was born in County Cork and had served in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for 45 years.

Los Angeles bishop shot dead

Bishop David O'Connell, pictured in 2018.
Southern California Renewal Communities/CNA

Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell of Los Angeles was shot and killed in his home on Saturday, 18 February.

Police announced the following day that they are investigating the bishop’s death as a homicide but did not disclose details as to why they reached that conclusion, nor did they indicate if they have a suspect in the case.

“It is a shock and I have no words to express my sadness,” said the Archbishop of Los Angeles, José Gómez, at a Mass in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

“As a priest and later a bishop here in Los Angeles for 45 years, Bishop Dave was a man of deep prayer who had a great love for Our Blessed Mother. 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.

“He was also a good friend, and I will miss him greatly. I know we all will.” 

O’Connell was born in County Cork, Ireland in 1953, studied for the priesthood at Maynooth. He was ordained a priest of Los Angeles in 1979.

He served in several of the poorest parishes in South Los Angeles, including in 1992 when rioting and looting broke out. The riots leveled much of the area around the parish of St Francis Cabrini where O‘Connell was serving.

Tensions between the LA Police Department and the city’s Black community had erupted when police officers were acquitted of using excessive force against Rodney King, although King’s beating had been videotaped. O’Connell worked with other clergy to achieve reconciliation after the riots and build trust between police and the local community.

In 2015, he was named an auxiliary bishop by Pope Francis and served as episcopal vicar of the San Gabriel region.

In addition to his work seeking to heal racial tensions and serve the poor, O’Connell became a forceful advocate for immigrants.

He chaired the Southern California Immigration Task Force, which united the work of several dioceses in the region in helping migrants cope with America’s complex immigration laws, as well as meeting their spiritual and temporal needs while they adjusted to life in the United States.

At the time of his death, O’Connell was also serving as chair of the US bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the Catholic Church’s anti-poverty arm that works with community organisers to empower the poor.

In Ireland, the Bishop of Cork and Ross, Fintan Gavin, said that the news of Bishop O'Connell's death had “sent shockwaves” through his native diocese.

He offered the diocese's condolences to the O'Connell family and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

“We pray that the Lord will console Bishop David's many friends in Cork and throughout Ireland,” he said.

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