A student looks at a tribute to shooting victim Christina Taylor Green. CNS photo

WASHINGTON – As Americans sought to make sense of the Jan 8 shooting spree in Tucson, Arizona, that left six dead and 14 wounded, religious leaders around the country looked to help heal the emotional pain through prayer and memorial services.

Tucson Bishop Gerald F Kicanas presided at a packed public commemoration and healing service on Jan 11 and was also part of an interfaith memorial service at Catalina United Methodist Church held the same day.

The violence caused trauma for the whole community, Bishop Kicanas told Catholic News Service in a phone interview. “First we have to grieve, we need to cry and be together, especially for those who were harmed and their families.”

Impromptu and organised vigils and prayer services took place around Tucson, at the hospital where most victims were treated, outside injured congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ office in Tucson, at the US Capitol, and at churches and public venues around the country.

Bishop Kicanas said the next step towards healing will mean reflecting on how such a tragedy could occur and what the community can do to ensure it does not happen again.

“We may never understand it,” he cautioned. But he said it’s important to look at gun laws that go far beyond enabling sportsmen to own hunting weapons and the availability of services for people with mental illnesses and addictions, as well as “the ways we respond to conflict”.

But first, it’s important to live through the experience of grieving, of wondering what happened, of praying, he said.

The president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, local state and national leaders of the Knights of Columbus and religious leaders of various denominations were also among those seeking to console people.

Archbishop Timothy M Dolan, the bishops’ president, in a Jan 10 statement warned “against drawing any hasty conclusions about the motives of the assailant until we know more from law enforcement authorities”. n CNS

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