Latino church pastor in Orlando opening his doors for victims' funerals, offering free services

Posted at 5:56 PM, Jun 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-17 05:24:01-04

As memorials grow larger in Orlando, reality starts to set in that many families will be saying their final goodbyes. 

A Latino church leading the Hispanic community is openings its doors for the first funeral in their church since the tragic Pulse shooting. 

RELATED: Special Section | Photos of victims

For the majority of the 49 victims, Latin night at Pulse was a signature night for celebrating their culture. On Sunday morning, the families of those victims were learning they might never see their loved one again. 

"Over 80 percent of the victims are Hispanic and over 50 percent are Puerto Rican, so what we said is, it should be the Latino church that says we’re here. We’re going to be present in the time of crisis," said Reverend Gabriel Salguero, a pastor at Iglesia el Calvario. 

Pastor Salguero says many of the victims' extended family members come to his church. He is opening his doors to funerals starting this Saturday. 

"We’re going to dispel the myth that the church hates gay people," said Salguero. 

The opposition of the outside world still exists. Orlando Police have been investigating rumors that demonstrators from Westboro Baptist Church, an unaffiliated Baptist Church group categorized as a hate group by he Anti-Defamation League, were coming to Central Florida. Salguero says he is increasing security to make sure grieving families are not impacted.

"Security is on our mind. It's the second most important thing after loving on the families," added Salguero.

Nearing the end of the most trying week for the community, pastor Salguero says it's significant the President has paid his respects to the victims' families. 

Now we have as part of our history the biggest mass shooting in the history of the United States and so it's important that our President shows solidarity," said Salguero.

Orlando police say they have confirmed with the Westboro Baptist Church group that there are no plans for protests in Orlando this week. If that changes the group will notify the law enforcement agencies impacted.