Following the shootings in Baton Rouge that killed three police officers and wounded several others, Bishop Robert Muench called for a week of prayer and fasting and reminded the grieving Louisiana city that love ultimately triumphs over hate.
"Words cannot express the emotions we feel for those who have lost loved ones in the tragic events of this day. Their entire lives have been unexpectedly and terribly turned upside down," Muench said in a statement on Sunday, according to Vatican Radio.
"In visiting this afternoon with two of the families affected by these shootings, Fr. Tom Ranzino and I shared prayer and support in the midst of their shock, horror and grief. Prayer is a powerful path to follow when tragedy happens, but even the most devout of us sometime question: 'What good could come of this?' Only the Word of God has the answer to the questions that shake our faith: The answer is our Lord Jesus Christ. In Jesus, hope ultimately triumphs over despair; love ultimately triumphs over hate; and resurrection ultimately triumphs over death.
"Standing firmly on the pillars of these eternal truths, we look to his words of promise in the Sermon on the Mount, and we recall two beatitudes that speak to the hope we should hold, especially today: 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God,' and 'Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted' (Matthew 5:9,4). We renew our call for a diocesan-wide week of prayer and fasting as we reflect on the events of the last several days, and as we work toward a lasting peace in our communities."
On Sunday, 29-year-old Gavin Long, a former Marine dressed in black and carrying extra ammunition, shot and killed three Baton Rouge police officers, identified as Montrell Jackson, Matthew Gerald, and Brad Garafola. The attack also left three other officers wounded, one critically.
The murders came less than two weeks after a black man was fatally shot by police in Baton Rouge and just ten days after the killing of five Dallas police officers by a sniper.
In YouTube videos posted July 8 and 10, reviewed by CNN, Long, using the name "Cosmo," spoke about the need for "fighting back" against police brutality and what people should say about him "if anything happened to me."
"One hundred percent of revolutions, of victims fighting their oppressors," he said, "have been successful through fighting back, through bloodshed. Zero have been successful just over simply protesting. It doesn't - it has never worked and it never will. You got to fight back. That's the only way that a bully knows to quit."
"You've got to stand on your rights, just like George Washington did, just like the other white rebels they celebrate and salute did," he added. "That's what Nat Turner did. That's what Malcolm did. You got to stand, man. You got to sacrifice."
Lt. J.B. Slaton, a public affairs commander for the Louisiana State Police, told the New York Times that Long was "targeting officers."
"Our preliminary investigation shows that he definitely ambushed those officers," he told the outlet on Monday. "We are still trying to find out what his motive was, and that's going to be part of our investigation. But we believe he was targeting those officers."
Just days before he was killed, Jackson, who recently had a baby with his wife, wrote a heartbreaking Facebook post in which he described being "physically and emotionally" tired amid all of the unrest, anger and confusion currently seen across the U.S.
"I've experienced so much in my short life and the past 3 days have tested me to the core," he wrote. "I swear to God I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me. In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat."
He concluded by urging his Facebook friends to practice peace and love.
"Please don't let hate infect your heart," he wrote. "This city MUST and WILL get better. I'm working in these streets so any protesters, officers, friends, family, or whoever, if you see me and need a hug or want to say a prayer I got you."