BELLEVILLE — Illinois clergy members asked churchgoers to pray for victims and their families at Sunday morning service as the world reacted to two mass shootings in the United States in less than 24 hours.
On Saturday morning at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart, a gunman killed at least 20 people and injured at least 26 more in what police are calling a terrorist attack. Thirteen hours later, in Dayton, Ohio, a gunman killed at least nine people and injured at least 27 at a popular entertainment district.
In total, at least 34 people have been killed and more than 50 have been wounded in the last week in mass shootings, including three dead at the Gilroy Garlic Festival last weekend in Gilroy, California, and a shooting at a playground in Chicago on Sunday morning where seven people were wounded.
The carnage spurred many conversations Sunday mornings, many of which took place in area places of worships, where pastors reflected on the violence.
In Belleville, at St. Paul United Church of Christ, the Rev. Pastor Michelle Torigian asked the congregation to pray for the many who have been affected by the shootings.
"We pray for those victims, for their families, for the people who are recovering, for those who are taking care of those who are recovering and just for all of us to reflect on how we can serve our world better," she said.
She added that difficult conversations need to be had in the coming days.
"Difficult conversations," she said. "There are so many difficult conversations and we as people in the church who don't always agree on everything can come together and listen to one another and value each other's voices."
The archbishop of Chicago says "hateful rhetoric" from some of the country's leaders is partly to blame for mass shootings.
Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich issued a statement Sunday in the wake of deadly mass shootings in Ohio and Texas that claimed at least 29 lives in less than 24 hours and wounded numerous others.
Cupich didn't name anyone specifically, but says the public needs to hold leaders accountable "who fuel these violent acts by dividing humanity through hateful rhetoric." He says "elected officials who have failed to condemn hate speech" must be stopped.
In the wake of Saturday's shooting of El Paso, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops called for legislation addressing gun violence.
"Things must change. Once again, we call for effective legislation that addresses why these unimaginable and repeated occurrences of murderous gun violence continue to take place in our communities," a statement from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo read. He is president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops. "As people of faith, we continue to pray for all the victims, and for healing in all these stricken communities. But action is also needed to end these abhorrent acts."
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The statement went on to call gun violence in the U.S. a "plague."
"The plague that gun violence has become continues unchecked and spreads across our country," the statement read.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, reflected on the two shootings, as well as a third near a playground in Chicago, early Sunday morning. He said the shootings can't be treated as "normal."
"This morning, we wake up to news of nine killed and 26 wounded in Dayton, Ohio, as well as seven wounded in a mass shooting near a playground in Chicago," he wrote in a post on Twitter. "Is this the new normal in America? Enough is enough. We can't treat this as normal."
A single shooter was responsible for the attack at a Walmart in east El Paso and was taken into custody "without incident," El Paso police Sgt. Robert Gomez said.
The suspect is a 21-year-old man from Allen, a city north of Dallas, El Paso police chief Greg Allen said.
Allen said police are looking at a manifesto reportedly from the suspect that points toward a hate crime.
Gomez said as many as 3,000 people might have been in the Walmart near Cielo Vista Mall when the shooting broke out. Allen said the shooting began at 10:39 a.m. and that police arrived within six minutes.
Videos taken inside the mall that have circulated on social media show people frantically running away and officers shouting "hands up!"
President Trump was briefed on the shooting and the White House is monitoring the situation, White House Deputy Press Secretary Steven Groves said in a statement.
Allen said in a statement that "the El Paso community was struck by a heinous and senseless act of violence."
"Our hearts go out to the victims of this horrific shooting and to the entire community in this time of loss," he said. "While no words can provide the solace needed for those impacted by this event, I ask that all Texans join Cecilia and me in offering our prayers for the victims and their families."
He said that "hate has no place in our country."
He said the state of Texas and the Department of Public Safety are assisting El Paso police as they conduct their investigation. The state has deployed troopers, special agents, Texas Rangers, tactical teams and aircraft to the scene of the active shooter situation.
Glendon Oakly, a witness to the shooting, said on CNN that he had heard gunshots while inside a Foot Locker and the cage came down outside the store. He picked up multiple children as he fled the store, he said.
El Paso is a West Texas city of about 680,000.