Reuters reports that both of the hostage takers slit the priest’s throat in the attack. They were later shot dead by police. Authorities say one of the hostages has been critically wounded.
“We are especially moved because this horrible violence took place in a Church — a sacred place in which God’s love is announced — with the barbaric murder of a priest and the involvement of the faithful,” the Vatican’s statement read.
“We are close to the French Church, the Rouen archdiocese, to the affected community, and the French people.”
Crying Out to God
Pope Francis has also sent a telegram to Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen, assuring him of his “spiritual closeness,” and his prayers for the suffering of the families, the parish community, and the diocese.
In the telegram, signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Pope prayed that God “welcomes Father Jacques Hamel in peace,” and brings comfort to the injured person.
Referencing the “act of violence” that took place during Mass, the telegram stated the Holy Father “implores God’s peace for the world.” He prayed that God might inspire “thoughts of reconciliation and fraternity.”
Archbishop Lebrun, who is currently in Krakow, Poland for World Youth Day, responded to the news of the killing, calling on believers and non-believers to “cry out to God with all men of good will.”
The archbishop said he had prayed in Warsaw with the youth attending WYD at the tomb of Father Popiulusko, a priest who was assassinated in 1984 during the communist regime.
“The Catholic Church cannot take weapons other than those of prayer and brotherhood among men,” the Rouen archbishop said, explaining that he would be returning to his diocese where the people are “very much in shock.”
“I leave here hundreds of young people who are the future of humanity, the true ones,” he said. “I ask them not to give in to the violence,” but instead “become apostles of the civilization of love.”
During an address at WYD for the launch of DoCat, a new Catholic social doctrine app for young people, the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, responded to the attacks.
“We want to express also our unity, our communion of prayer, even of sorrow, with the people of France,” he said.
Although little is yet known about the incident, he said we are nonetheless “shocked, we are saddened, and we pray for the people of France.”
The Latest in a Series
The Vatican’s statement observed that the attack in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray was just the latest in “a series of violence which, in recent days has shocked us,” and caused “immense suffering and worry.”
Tuesday’s killing comes little over a week after a teenage Afghan Islamist went on an axe rampage in Würzburg, Germany, which left several passengers severely wounded. More recently, just last Saturday, around 80 people were killed and 230 people wounded after two explosions struck the Afghani capital city of Kabul.
In less than two years, France has witnessed several deadly attacks attributed to Islamic state militants, with the most recent — and second deadliest — taking place earlier this month. On July 14, 84 people were killed in Nice, France when a Tunisian man intentionally drove a large truck through a crowded beach street at high speed during a Bastille Day celebration.
On Nov. 13, 2015, nearly 130 people were killed in a series of attacks throughout Paris. In January of that same year, a total of 12 people were killed in the French capital after terrorists stormed the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine.
French prime minister Manuel Valls decried the “horror” of the latest “barbaric attack” in France, writing on Twitter: “The whole of France and all Catholics are wounded. We will stand together.”