Speaking at an annual Easter prayer breakfast Monday, President Obama offered his prayers for the families of three people fatally shot outside a Jewish community center and retirement home near Kansas City, saying that anyone heading to a place of worship should not have to worry about security.
"Nobody should have to worry about their security when gathering with their fellow believers," Obama said. "No one should ever have to fear for their safety when they go to pray."
Obama said the government plans to provide whatever support is necessary for the investigation into the shootings. Americans, he said, need to "stand united" against violence and hatred.
"And we have to keep coming together across faiths to combat the ignorance and intolerance, including anti-Semitism that can lead to hatred and to violence, because we’re all children of God," Obama said. "We’re all made in His image, all worthy of His love and dignity. And we see what happens around the world when this kind of religious-based or tinged violence can rear its ugly head. It’s got no place in our society."
Authorities arrested 73-year-old Frazier Glen Cross in connection with the shooting Sunday afternoon. He has been identified as a former "grand dragon" of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He was booked into the Johnson County jail Sunday and charged with first degree premeditated murder, according to the Johnson County Sheriff's Department.
Obama said two of the victims - a grandfather and his teenage grandson, identified by family members as William Lewis Corporon and 14-year-old Reat Griffin Underwood - attended the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kanasa. It is led by the Rev. Adam Hamilton, who delivered the sermon at a prayer service during Obama's inauguration. Information on the third victim, a woman or girl, has not been released.
According to reports, the boy was at the center to audition for a local American Idol-style contest.
Obama spoke of his meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican last month, telling the breakfast audience that they spoke mainly about the "imperatives" of addressing poverty and inequality. Obama said Christians, regardless of denomination, have been touched and inspired by Pope Francis's words and deeds - preaching about inclusion, hugging a homeless man.
"He reminds us that all of us, no matter what our station, have an obligation to live righteously and that we all have an obligation to live humbly, because that's, in fact, the example that we profess to follow," Obama said.
Obama thanked the clergy members and others in attendance for organizing their communities, feeding the homeless and helping children. Also at the breakfast were boys from Obama's My Brother's Keeper program, which aims to strengthen the lives of young minority men.
At the end of the breakfast, Obama surprised the Rev. Gene Robinson, who was chosen as the nation's first openly gay Episcopal bishop in 2003, and asked him to give a closing prayer. Robinson, the former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, retired last year and is now a fellow at the Center for American Progress.