The fatal shooting of nine members of Emanuel A.M.E, Church in Charleston, South Carolina, has shocked America, and that shock is our greatest resource at this time of national sorrow. Our surprise at this terrible crime expresses a basic recognition that in a civil society, physical violence against innocent people is repulsive and doubly so when it occurs in the place of worship. The tragedy at Emanuel, often called “Mother Emanuel” because of its high stature as a national landmark of the civil rights movement, resonates deeply with Americans far beyond South Carolina, including those of us here in Louisiana.

“Emmanuel,” a Hebrew word meaning “God with us,” expresses the belief that even in times of great darkness, there are sources of strength that can lift us from despair. That faith has guided Mother Emanuel for generations, and we know it will sustain the congregation — and a distraught nation — at this moment of profound sadness.