First lady Jill Biden and Sheryl Crow were among those expected to attend a candlelight vigil on Wednesday in memory of the three children and three adults killed in a shooting at a private Christian school in Nashville.
Ms Crow was scheduled to perform, along with fellow musicians Margo Price and Ketch Secor, the Nashville mayor’s office said in a news release.
The line-up also listed civic leaders, including mayor John Cooper and police chief John Drake.
Mr Cooper said the vigil would “honour the lives of the victims and lift up the survivors and families” of the Covenant School.
In a telegram, the pontiff asked Nashville Bishop J Mark Spalding to convey the assurance of his prayers.
“He joins the entire community in mourning the children and adults who died and commends them to the loving embrace of the Lord Jesus,” read the telegram, which was sent by the Vatican’s secretary of state in the pontiff’s name.
In other developments, Nashville city officials on Wednesday declined to immediately release the 911 calls about the shooting because of the ongoing investigation.
Authorities have not yet determined the attacker’s motive but said the assailant did not target specific victims.
The dead children were identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney. The adults killed were Katherine Koonce, 60, the head of the school; substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61; and custodian Mike Hill, also 61.
Among the featured performers at the vigil, Ms Price has been particularly vocal about governor Bill Lee’s position on state gun laws, having tweeted in response to shooting: “Our children are dying and being shot in school but you’re more worried about drag queens than smart gun laws? You have blood on your hands.”
“Maria woke up this morning without one of her best friends,” Mr Lee said in a video statement, adding that his wife once taught with Ms Peak and Ms Koonce. The women, he said, “have been family friends for decades.”
The shooting led to an outpouring of prayers and support.
“As pundits and politicians try to make sense out of the senseless, we’re not really asking why. We know why – we live in a broken, fallen world,” said pastor George Grant, a leader with the Nashville Presbytery, which is connected to the school.
In a blog post published on Wednesday, Mr Grant recounted how notifications about an active attacker at the school interrupted a presbytery planning meeting that included Chad Scruggs, Covenant Presbyterian Church pastor and the father of one of the shooting victims.
“We emptied into the hallway, stricken, eyes clouded with unbelief, horror, and grief. Our worst fears were realised,” Mr Grant wrote.
Police said the assailant, whom they identified as Audrey Hale, was under a doctor’s care for an undisclosed emotional disorder and was not on the radar of police before the attack.
Police have given unclear information on Hale’s gender.
For hours on Monday, police identified the attacker as a woman. Later in the day, the police chief said Hale was transgender.
In an email on Tuesday, a police spokesperson said Hale “was assigned female at birth” but used masculine pronouns on a social media profile. Then the chief later used feminine pronouns to refer to Hale.