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COLUMBIA, South Carolina — The bishop of the church that Charleston shooter Dylann Roof's family attends said he was encouraged to see the family at Sunday's service, where there was a "great sadness," just days after the 21-year-old opened fire at a Bible study and killed nine people.
"They are grieving in a different way, but they are grieving for those nine families, and they expressed great grief and sorrow for them," said Rev. Herman R. Yoos of St. Paul's Lutheran Church, which Roof's family attends.
The bishop told NBC News that he visited the Roof family at their home Saturday, and they decided to attend church as they grieved "over something they do not understand and cannot comprehend either."
Yoos said "there was a great sadness in our congregation," Sunday, and he chose to preach that "where one member of the body suffers, we all suffer and that we’re in solidarity with the nine families who lost loved ones."
"We've got to work to build bridges among our congregations," Yoos said, adding that the brutal attack indicates that South Carolina, and America as a whole, has to "address the deep serious issue of racism in our society."
Police say Roof's attack on the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopalian Church was a hate crime, based on his own admitted disdain for black people.
"We need confront the reality of racism and work together to build honest communications, honest dialogue, prayerful conversations that help that help this be a turning point for our state," Yoos said.
Parishioners flocked to Emanuel AME Sunday morning, where the families of the victims were celebrated for offering forgiveness to Roof during his bond hearing Friday.
"Our human nature is to want to get even but they extended to him, and to the community, and modeled a forgiveness that I think we’re all called to practice," Yoos said.