VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has condemned the latest Islamic terrorist attack to hit France, where two men on Tuesday entered the parish church of Saint-Etienne du Rouvray in Rouen, Normandy, shouted ‘Daesh’ (an Arabic acronym for ISIS) and slit the throat of an 86-year-old priest as he was celebrating Mass.
In a written statement issued on Tuesday, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that the Holy See was “shocked” by the terrible news, the latest in a series of violent attacks in recent days that are “creating immense sorrow and worry.”
Fr. Lombardi said that the Pope “shares in the sorrow and horror over this absurd violence,” and expresses his “most radical condemnation” of the attack as well as his prayers for the victims.
The Holy See is following the situation and awaiting further information to better understand what has happened, Lombardi noted.
“We are particularly struck because this horrible violence took place within a church, a sacred place in which God’s love is preached, with the barbarous murder of a priest and the involvement of the faithful,” Lombardi said.
According to reports, the assailants entered the church through the rear door between 9:00 and 9:30am, carrying knives and shouting Islamic slogans. They slit the throat of 86-year-old Fr. Jacques Hamel and took several other hostages, including two religious sisters. One hostage was also seriously wounded before the attackers were ‘neutralized’ (shot dead) by special operations forces.
The case is now being investigated by France’s counterterrorism forces.
Fr. Lombardi said the Pope assured his closeness in prayer to the local community, as well as the Church and all the people of France.
Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.