Pope Francis at the general audience in St Peters Square on January 31 2018 Credit Daniel Ibanez/CNA
After three people were killed in a terrorist attack in a basilica in Nice, France, this morning, a Vatican spokesman condemned the violence and said that Pope Francis was praying for the victims and those who mourn them.
Pope Francis “is informed of the situation and is close to the Catholic community in mourning,” Matteo Bruni said earlier today.
According to the Holy See press office director, “it is a time of pain, in a time of confusion. Terrorism and violence can never be accepted.”
An attacker killed three people at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice at around 9 a.m. local time, according to French media.
“Today’s attack sowed death in a place of love and consolation, as the house of the Lord,” Bruni’s statement continued.
Pope Francis “is praying for the victims and their loved ones, for the violence to cease, for people to look at each other again as brothers and sisters and not as enemies, so that the beloved French people, united, can respond to evil with good,” he said.
Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, said the perpetrator of the attack, who was armed with a knife, was shot and arrested by the municipal police.
He also said in a video posted to Twitter that the attacker repeatedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” during and after the attack.
Police have confirmed that three people died in the attack and several were injured, according to Reuters. The news agency also reported that one of the victims, a woman, was beheaded.
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin underlined the pope’s concern for the victims of the attack in a condolence message to Bishop André Marceau of Nice.
In the telegram sent in the name of Pope Francis, he wrote: “Informed of the savage attack which was perpetrated this morning in a church in Nice, causing the death of several innocent people, His Holiness Pope Francis joined in prayer with the suffering of the affected families and shares their pain. He asks the Lord to bring them comfort and commends the victims to His mercy.”
“Condemning in the strongest possible way of such violent acts of terror, he offers the assurance of his closeness to the Catholic community of France and all the French people, whom he calls to unity. Entrusting France to the protection of Our Lady, he gives from the depths of his heart the Apostolic Blessing to all the people touched by this dramatic event.”
In a statement, Marceau said that all churches in the city had been closed and would remain under police protection until further notice.
The bishop said that his emotion was strong after learning of the “heinous terrorist act” at the basilica, noting that it occurred not long after the beheading of a Paris school teacher, Samuel Paty, in an Islamist terror attack earlier this month.
“My sadness is infinite as a human being in the face of what other beings, called human, can do,” Marceau said in a statement. “May Christ’s spirit of forgiveness prevail in the face of these barbaric acts.”
In a statement today, the French bishops’ conference asked parishes to toll their bells at 3 p.m. local time. They also invited Catholics to pray for the victims.
San Luigi dei Francesi, the French national church in Rome, will join in tolling its bells at 3 p.m.
Cardinal Robert Sarah also responded to the news of the attack.
He wrote on Twitter: “Islamism is a monstrous fanaticism which must be fought with force and determination … Unfortunately, we Africans know this too well. The barbarians are always the enemies of peace. The West, today France, must understand this.”