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Boston faith community gathers in prayer for Charleston victims

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DORCHESTER -- People of faith from across the spectrum of Boston faith communities came together at the Charles Street African Methodist Episcopal Church in Dorchester, June 21, for prayerful reflection on a church shooting that claimed nine lives at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church called "Mother Emanuel" in Charleston, S.C. four days earlier.

The shooter had gathered with a Bible study group at Mother Emanuel before opening fire on June 17. Police apprehended 21-year-old Dylann Roof for the shooting the day after the shooting.

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley issued a statement on the shooting June 18.

"We join all people of faith and good will in prayerful solidarity with the Emanuel AME Church congregation and community of Charleston during this time of loss and heartache. It is foundational to our country's heritage that places of worship always be sanctuaries of prayer, safety and peace. We must reject these senseless acts of hatred and brutality in society," the cardinal wrote.

Associate director of ecumenical affairs for the Archdiocese of Boston, Vito Nicastro, said he joined the cardinal; his priest secretary Father Robert Kickham; Dorchester priest Father Jack Ahern; Bill Richard, the father of Marathon bombing victim Martin Richard; and the Richard family's former pastor and friend Father Sean Connor at the event in Dorchester.

The service included song, prayer and reflection from leaders of various traditions including, members of the Jewish and Islamic communities.

"It wasn't simply a service of mourning or grieving. It was a service of resolving and gathering strength from the Lord to combat this evil, which has its roots deep and wide in ideas and social notions that have the power to lead people from frustration or anger to desperate evil," Nicastro said.

Nicastro said the four-hour prayer service in Dorchester focused on the themes of moral responsibility for the tragedy and individual obligations in a society threatened by what the cardinal called a "contagious disease."

Nicastro said the cardinal compared racism with polio and said he hoped that racism could become a disease of the past like polio has in modern times.

"I think the cardinal's remarks set the tone for one of the principle themes of the event, which was that racism is curable. It may be contagious, but it is also curable, and the cure for it is love -- love in action in our lives," Nicastro said.

Nicastro said the archdiocese attended the event as a matter of witness to Christian unity and support for the nine Christians killed.

"The bond between all Christians is forever. Therefore, when nine of our brothers and sisters are slain -- especially slain in the act of expressing and building their faith -- then more than anything we experience that, share it, and want to bring the comfort of solidarity," Nicastro said.

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