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Black Church Massacre Claims Nine Victims, Including Young Pastor

Micah A. Ponce-cc

John Burger - published on 06/18/15 - updated on 06/07/17

Gunman allegedly sat with congregation for an hour before opening fire

A South Carolina state senator who began preaching in church when he was 13 is among the dead in a deadly attack on a historic black church in Charleston, S.C.

The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41, was killed along with eight others, including his sister, during an attack at Emanuel AME Church Wednesday night.

Pinckney was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives at 23, becoming the youngest African-American to be elected to the State Legislature.

Born in Beaufort, S.C., Pinckney gained notice for his charisma and his commitment to the church as a young teenager, according to the New York Times. He became a pastor at 18. He became the pastor of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in 2010, and also led Bible studies and prayer sessions there.

Pinckney leaves behind a wife, Jennifer, and two daughters, Eliana and Malana. 

In the 1999 article in The Savannah Morning News, Mr. Pinckney expressed his devotion to the church, saying that ministering was his first love:

I see everything I do as an extension of the ministry. It’s all about service. In the community, in the African-American community, one person ought to say something and that is the minister. The minister is paid by the people. He doesn’t work for a big company. He doesn’t represent a particular special interest.

Authorities took a suspect, Dylann Storm Roof, 21, into custody Thursday morning in Shelby, N.C., some 200 miles away. Police say Roof, who is white, is suspected of being the man who walked into the prayer meeting Wednesday night, sat down with black parishioners for nearly an hour, and then opened fire, the Times reported.

The paper provided background on the historic church:

The church, known here as “Mother Emanuel,” houses the oldest black congregation south of Baltimore, according to the National Park Service, and its website calls it the oldest A.M.E. church in the South. The Park Service lists the church’s Gothic Revival building, which dates from 1891, as a historically significant building.

The congregation was formed by black members of Charleston’s Methodist Episcopal Church who broke away “over disputed burial ground,” according to the website of the National Park Service.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of the Catholic Diocese of Charleston released a statement today regarding the shooting:

The inside of any church is a sanctuary. When a person enters, he or she has the right to worship, pray and learn in a safe and secure environment. For anyone to murder nine individuals is upsetting, but to kill them inside of a church during a Bible study class is devastating to any faith community.

On behalf of the Catholic faithful in South Carolina, I offer my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and to the members of Emanuel AME Church. I pray that everyone affected by this horror will feel the comforting presence of our Lord surrounding them during this difficult time.

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