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Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, Missouri Democrat and an ordained United Methodist minister, gave an impromptu blessing for the victims of the attack.

“Help us move from this dark place to a place of sunshine,” Mr. Cleaver said.

Later Monday afternoon, congressional staffers and a handful of House members packed a conference room at the Capitol for a prayer service for the Arizona shooting victims. Some participants wiped tears from red eyes as they exited the service, which was closed to the media.

Before and after the service, Capitol Hill workers and guests lined up to sign condolence books for the victims’ families.

Along with mourning such an enormous tragedy, Mr. Obama said Americans should also focus “on the extraordinary courage that was shown during the course of these events.”

“A 20-year-old college student who ran into the line of fire to rescue his boss, a wounded woman who helped secure the ammunition that might have caused even more damage, the citizens who wrestled down the gunman,” he said. “Part of what I think that speaks to is the best of America, even in the face of such mindless violence.”

Sean Lengell contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.