CHATTANOOGA, TENN. (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville is calling the faith community to prayer after Thursday's fatal shooting at a military recruiting center in Chattanooga, on the southern end of his diocese.
"We ask for your prayers for the souls of those who lost their lives, the recovery of the police officer wounded in these shootings, and for all of their families," Bishop Stika said in a statement.
Muhammed Youssef Abdulazeez, age 24, is suspected of attacking two military facilities in Chattanooga on Thursday morning, killing four U.S. Marines and wounding a police officer and two others.
According to authorities, Abdulazeez fired into the first facility, a military recruiting center, from his car before driving a few miles to the second site, a Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center. He exited his car and killed the four Marines there, reports said, and was later killed in a shootout with police.
The tragedy has stunned not only the local community but also the diocesan seat in Knoxville, more than 100 miles away.
"It's been foremost in the bishop's mind," the diocese's communications director Jim Wogan told CNA. "It's saddened him, it's disturbed him."
"Clearly it's shaken the community, it's shaken the diocese."
The rector of the city's Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, Fr. David Carter, held a prayer service Thursday night and the bishop traveled down to say Mass there for the deceased Marines on Sunday, Wogan confirmed.
In addition, the bishop is expected to release a video message calling for prayers for all involved in the tragedy.
The tragedy hits close to home for Bishop Stika, who noted in his statement that he has two brothers that have served in the U.S. Marine Corps. "I recognize and appreciate the selfless service all members of the military give to protect us," he said.
Chattanooga holds a special place in the history of the diocese, Wogan explained. There is a "deep tradition of Catholicism in that area," he said. In fact, the history of the basilica there goes back to the 1850s when it was founded as a parish.