Kobe Bryant and daughter attended Catholic mass early Sunday morning hours before they both died in tragic crash

Kobe Bryant and daughter Gigi prayed together at Catholic mass at their local church hours before they both died in the tragic helicopter crash, DailyMail.com can reveal.

The basketball legend and 13-year-old Gigi went to the 7am service at the Our Lady Queen of Angels in Newport Beach. They both received Communion.

The father and daughter left the church and soon afterwards boarded the S-76 Sikorsky helicopter piloted by Ara Zobyan which was taking them to the Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks for Gigi’s basketball practice.

The helicopter crashed into a hillside near Calabasas around 9.30am, firefighters responded to a 911 call at 9.47am. Nine people perished on board.

A spokesman for Our Lady Queen of Angels confirmed to DailyMail.com that Kobe was at the early morning service Sunday.

One parishioner, who attended a later mass at the church, wrote on social media: ‘During mass, our priest informed us all that Kobe Bryant and his daughter attended mass this morning at the Our Lady Queen of Angels.’

And Father David Barnes, a Catholic priest in Boston, Massachusetts also confirmed Kobe’s attendance.

He tweeted on Sunday: ‘A friend texted me today to tell me that a friend of her’s (sic) saw #KobeBryant at #Catholic Mass this morning. ‘Mass is the worship of God. Heaven is the worship of God. Go to Mass here so that you can worship God forever in heaven.’

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In a moving Facebook post Bishop Timothy Freyer, of the Orange Diocese, who is currently in Rome meeting the Pope, said Kobe was a ‘committed Catholic’ who ‘loved his faith’.

He said: ‘Our hearts remain heavy after the tragic loss suffered in the wake of yesterday’s helicopter crash in Calabasas.

‘We pray and mourn for the friends and family of the victims who have been publicly identified in news reports: Basketball icon Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna.

‘Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli and his wife, Keri, and daughter, Alyssa.

‘Basketball coach Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan.

‘Kobe was a basketball icon who inspired us through his words and actions to set our goals, work hard and achieve our dreams.

‘He was a committed Catholic who loved his family and loved his faith.

‘A longtime Orange County resident and parishioner in our Diocese, Kobe would frequently attend Mass and sit in the back of the church so that his presence would not distract people from focusing on Christ’s Presence.

Please join me in praying for the victims. May God grant their loved ones peace and bring them comfort during these difficult times.’

And Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H Gomez said of Kobe on Twitter: ‘So very sad to hear the news of #KobeBryant’s tragic death this morning.

‘I am praying for him and his family. May he rest in peace and may our Blessed Mother Mary bring comfort to his loved ones. #KobeBryantRIP.’

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‘There can be nothing more consoling to those who mourn than to know that a loved one worshipped God just before his death because worshiping God is what heaven is.’

Julie Hermes, a spokeswoman for Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church said the late basketball legend slipped in at the back of the service and left early to avoid disturbing the other parishioners.

The service was held by Father Anthony Vu, a Vietnamese parochial vicar at the church.

‘He attended the 7am mass prior to going to the Orange County John Wayne Airport,’ Hermes told DailyMail.com.

‘I imagine he went straight to the airport, because the mass was 7-8am. I’m told generally 7am was his mass.

‘He was very discreet. He would come in and stay at the back, and his family too, and then he would usually leave a little earlier prior to the very end of the service.

 ‘He was very much loved at the church, and he was very devout, very dedicated to his faith.’

Hermes said she attended the first mass after the Lakers star’s death was announced, and the churchgoers, many of whom knew Kobe, were deeply shocked by the news.

‘I went to the 12pm mass, that was dedicated to him. Every mass since has been dedicated to Kobe and the families of all the victims,’ the church staffer said.

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‘Everybody was stunned. It was like silence. Everybody was in shock. It was very still. When the 12pm mass ended, because that was the first mass after anybody knew, everybody walked out in silence and were glued to their cell phones looking up any information they could get online.

‘Our parishioners knew him not just from church but from the community, because Kobe was a great part of this community. That’s how I know him too. I live very close to him in Newport Coast. He was a like regular guy, you wouldn’t know he was a celebrity. He would go out on his own without bodyguards.

‘In the Starbucks line and Sees Candy line, if the kids wanted to take a picture of him he always took a picture. Even if you didn’t talk to him, it made people happy to know he was part of the community.’

Hermes said the Queen of Angels Church also held a rosary service at 7.45am on Monday, attended by Kobe fans studying at the nearby University of Irvine.

Kobe was a devout Catholic having been raised into the faith by his family and he  credited the religion for getting him through the tough times in his life.

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