Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama took time on Monday at a Holy Week prayer breakfast to reflect on the deadly shooting outside a Jewish community center in Kansas.
He noted the religious timing of the violence in Overland Park where a man with a long history of spouting anti-Semitic rhetoric is suspected of killing three people, including a boy and his grandfather.
“That this occurred now, as Jews were preparing to celebrate Passover, as Christians were observing Palm Sunday, makes this tragedy all the more painful,” Obama said.
“And today as Passover begins, we are seeing a number of synagogues and Jewish community centers take added security precautions. Nobody should have to worry about their security when gathering with their fellow believers. No one should ever have to fear for their safety when they go to pray.”
The President vowed to provide government assistance for the investigation and said that violence based on religious hatred and intolerance has no place in society.
The annual gathering of the Easter Prayer Breakfast was attended by more than 150 Christian leaders including megachurch pastor Joel Hunter, Rev. Al Sharpton, and AME Bishop Vashti McKenzie.
Holy Week is observed by Christians marking Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday leading up to Easter Sunday.
“This Easter week, of course, we recognize that here is a lot of pain and a lot of sin and tragedy in this world, but we are also overwhelmed by the grace of an awesome God,” Obama said.
Obama also told the crowd of his recent visit to meet Pope Francis in March. During his meeting, the Pope gave the President a copy of his book “The Joy of the Gospel” which focuses on a renewed effort for evangelism and ministry to the poor.
The President quoted the Pope and his message of justice and humility.
“‘Christ’s resurrection,” he writes, ‘is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world.’ And he adds, ‘Jesus did not rise in vain. May we never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope,’” the President said.