Archbishop Timothy P Broglio says 'respect for life must be restored to the fabric of America'

After Monday’s shootings at the Washington Navy Yard that left 12 dead people, religious leaders in America have offered prayers for the victims and their families.

Washington Cardinal Donald W Wuerl and Archbishop Timothy P Broglio, who heads the Washington-based Archdiocese for the Military Services, both issued brief statements.

Archbishop Broglio said the “terrible loss of life” shocked and saddened him, particularly as it occurred at a familiar place where he has often visited and celebrated the Eucharist.

“Somehow we must restore the notion of respect for life into the fabric of the nation,” he said. “When the uniqueness of the human person created in the image and likeness of God is universally recognised, the possibility of a mass shooting is more remote.”

The gunman, former Navy serviceman Aaron Alexis, 34, died in a gun battle with police during his rampage at the naval facility. No motive is currently known for the attack and Washington police have revealed that the victims were aged from 46 to 73. Eight other people are said to have been injured in the attack.

Despite initial fears that there was more than one armed assailant, on Monday evening the authorities said they were certain that Alexis was the only gunman.

Cardinal Wuerl in his statement offered his prayers for the victims, their families and friends, as well as for the emergency responders on the scene.

He noted that “while many facts are still unknown, our most powerful tool right now is prayer,” adding that the Church always calls people to prayer, particularly at times of crisis. “It is what we do best because it is what the Lord asks us to do.”

As he opened a news conference on recovery from the banking crisis, President Barack Obama also extended his prayers and observed that the attack targeted military and civilian personnel at a military installation.

“These are men and women who were going to work, doing their job, protecting all of us,” he said. “They’re patriots, and they know the dangers of serving abroad – but today, they faced unimaginable violence that they wouldn’t have expected here at home.”