The pastor of the church attended by the parents of Charleston shooter Dylann Roof has said the massacre at Emmanuel AME, which left 9 people dead, should prompt both the church and the United States to "address the deep serious issue of racism in our society."
"We've got to work to build bridges among our congregations," the Rev. Herman R. Yoos of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Columbia told NBC News.
"We need (to) confront the reality of racism and work together to build honest communications, honest dialogue, prayerful conversations that help this be a turning point for our state," added Yoos, who's also bishop of the South Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Yoos has been ministering to Roof's family, who attended church over the weekend. According to The New York Times, Bishop Yoos' sermon theme on Sunday was "where one member of the body suffers, we all suffer and that we're in solidarity with the nine families who lost loved ones."
Speaking to NBC, the pastor revealed that during the service there was "great sadness." He shared that the Roofs "are grieving for those nine families" and expressed grief "over something they do not understand and cannot comprehend either."
Police say Roof's attack on the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopalian Church was a hate crime and was an attempt to instigate a "race war".
When Roof opened fire on the 13 men and women who had welcomed him an hour earlier for Bible study and prayer, he reportedly told one victim who begged him to stop: "'No, you've raped our women, and you are taking over the country ... I have to do what I have to do.'"
Witnesses told law enforcement officials that Roof had also declared that he was at the church "to shoot black people."
Roof's family said in a public statement after the shooting that their "thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those killed" and that their "hope and prayer is for peace and healing for the families of the victims, the Charleston community, and those touched by these events throughout the state of South Carolina and our nation."
Pastor Yoos also commended the families of the victims and the Emanuel AME community for extending grace and forgiveness to Roof despite his lack of remorse.
"I forgive you, my family forgives you. But take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the one that matters the most - Christ - so that He can change you and change your ways no matter what happened to you, and you'll be OK. Do that and you'll be better off than you are right now," Anthony Thompson, a relative of one of the victims, Myra Thompson, told a stone-faced Roof during the brief hearing.
"Together, we must work to recognize and affirm the image of God in all people," Bishop Yoos wrote in a public letter.
He later added, "Our human nature is to want to get even but they extended to him, and to the community, and modeled a forgiveness that I think we're all called to practice."