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Baton Rouge bishop calls for a week of prayer after police officers killed

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Baton Rouge Bishop Robert W. Muench renewed a call for a diocesan-wide week of prayer, fasting and reflection after the latest fatal shootings in the city, which this time took the lives of three law enforcement officers.

He urged all to “work toward a lasting peace in our communities.”

Early July 17, a former Marine fatally shot three police officers, and wounded three more, one critically, less than a mile from

Police officers attend a July 17 vigil at St. John the Baptist Church in Zachary, La., for the fatal attack on policemen in Baton Rouge, La. A former Marine dressed in black shot and killed three Baton Rouge law enforcement officers that day, less than two weeks after a black man was fatally shot by police here in a confrontation that sparked nightly protests nationwide. (CNS photo/Jeffrey Dubinsky, Reuters)
Police officers attend a July 17 vigil at St. John the Baptist Church in Zachary, La., for the fatal attack on policemen in Baton Rouge, La. A former Marine dressed in black shot and killed three Baton Rouge law enforcement officers that day, less than two weeks after a black man was fatally shot by police here in a confrontation that sparked nightly protests nationwide. (CNS photo/Jeffrey Dubinsky, Reuters)

the city’s police headquarters. The gunman, later identified as Gavin Long of Missouri, was killed at the scene, officials said.

Baton Rouge was still reeling from the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, 37, by police during an altercation outside a convenience store July 5. The first week of July also saw the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, 32, in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, by police officers July 6, followed by the sniper shooting in Dallas that killed five police officers July 7.

“Words cannot express the emotions we feel for those who have lost loved ones in the tragic events of this day,” Bishop Muench said in a statement. “Their entire lives have been unexpectedly and terribly turned upside down.”

He said he and the diocese’s vicar general, Father Tom Ranzino, visited two of the families affected by the shootings later that afternoon to share “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?’” the bishop said. “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.”

In the neighboring Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Bishop Shelton J. Fabre said that “our tears are still falling and our fresh and fervent prayers are still ascending to God” over the earlier violence and loss of life in Louisiana when the law enforcement offers were ambushed in Baton Rouge, a diocese “very close to home for us.”

“As a native of New Roads and a priest of the Diocese of Baton Rouge for 17 years, I feel a deep ache in my heart because of recent violence that has happened there,” said Bishop Fabre in a reflection posted July 17 on his Facebook page.