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Bishops perform cleansing ritual in Nice basilica where three people were killed

Les trois victimes de l'attentat dans la basilique de Nice

Diocèse de Nice / Olivier Huitel

John Burger - published on 11/03/20 - updated on 11/03/20

Penitential rite of reparation must be performed whenever there is a "gravely injurious act" in a church.

In response to the killing of three people by a suspected Islamist terrorist, the bishop of Nice, France, led a ritual cleansing of the Basilica of Notre Dame in which the October 29 incident occurred.

Bishop André Marceau of Nice was joined by Archbishops Jean-Marc Aveline of Marseille and Dominique-Marie David of Monaco in the Sunday evening Mass with “penitential rite of reparation,” an act that is performed whenever a “gravely injurious act,” such as a homicide, occurs within a church. The cleansing had to be performed before normal religious activities could resume, according to a November 1 statement by the Diocese of Nice.

The bishops taking part in the rite of reparation entered a darkened church wearing purple vestments. Altars were stripped bare. “The church was blessed throughout with holy water before the lights were turned on again, and the bishops changed their vestments to white to signify the Resurrection,” reported Catholic News Service.

Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi was part of a small congregation inside the church for the Mass, restricted by pandemic regulations. A larger gathering stood outside. 

Le Parisien newspaper reported that Bishop Marceau condemned the violence that had taken place October 29, when a man had hacked three people to death with a foot-long blade. The act was apparently in response to French President Emmanuel Macron’s defense of a teacher displaying cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. 

Brahim Aoussaoui, 21, who had entered France after arriving on a migrant boat to Italy in September, was arrested at the scene after being shot 14 times by the police. He is in a critical condition in hospital. Five others, ages 25-63, have since been arrested in Nice and nearby Grasse in connection with the killings.

“The stones cannot cry out their horror,” said Marceau at the November 1 Mass. “The abomination of the terrorist act marred the destination and vocation of this place. … Three lives were stolen in the name of a false god.”

Just the day before, on October 31, Greek Orthodox Fr. Nikolas Kakavelakis, 45, was shot twice by an unknown attacker as he locked up his church in the French city of Lyon. He is said to be in a critical condition.

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