The Reverend Fred Adamson (centre), vicar general of the Phoenix Archdiocese, speaks at a news conference after an attack at the Mother of Mercy Mission. Picture: Ross D Franklin

Phoenix -

A badly injured priest managed to administer last rites to his dying fellow clergyman who was fatally shot in a night-time attack at their Roman Catholic church as police rushed to the scene after the man also called police.

Authorities had no suspects or solid leads as of Thursday afternoon. They searched the neighbourhood, interviewed the injured priest and examined physical evidence from the scene. Investigators said they are unsure how many attackers were involved or if robbery was the motive.

A 2003 Mazda belonging to the Reverend Kenneth Walker, who died late on Wednesday at a hospital, was found abandoned a few blocks from the church. Police were investigating whether the suspect or suspects took the vehicle and left it behind after the crime. Authorities were examining the vehicle for clues.

Police Chief Daniel Garcia called the attack a “tragic and appalling criminal violation”.

As police investigated the crime scene at the church, about a dozen parishioners gathered across the street, kneeling on the sidewalk and reciting the rosary in response to the loss of their beloved clergyman. A bouquet of flowers and a photograph of Walker, 28, lay on the sidewalk.

The Reverend Joseph Terra, 56, was admitted to hospital in critical condition with unspecified injuries. The two priests lived at the church.

Terra called police to report a burglary at the Mother of Mercy Mission near the state Capitol around 9.30pm on Wednesday and administered last rites to the wounded Walker while waiting for police to arrive. - Sapa-AP