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Pope Francis expresses ‘deep sorrow’ and ‘spiritual closeness’ to France after Nice attack

Roses are attached at a barrier near the scene of the attack in Nice (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, has sent a message on behalf of Pope Francis to Archbishop André Marceau of Nice expressing the Pope’s deep sorrow at the atrocities which killed at least 84 people last night.

The statement read: “While France was celebrating its national day, blind violence struck the country in Nice, causing many casualties, including children. Condemning such acts again, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses his deep sorrow and his spiritual closeness to the French people.

“He entrusts God’s mercy on those who lost their lives, and shares deeply the pain of bereaved families.

“He expresses his sympathy to those injured and to all those who contributed to the rescue, asking the Lord to support each person in this ordeal. Imploring from God the gift of peace and harmony, he invokes the benefits of divine blessings on grieving families and all the French people.”

The telegram followed an earlier statement from the Vatican press office condemning the “homicidal folly” of the attack.

During Bastille Day celebrations a truck piled into the crowds killing at least 84 people.

The driver ploughed on for two kilometres on the Promenade des Anglais at about 11pm yesterday, before being shot dead by police.

Guns and grenades were found inside the lorry and President Hollande said the attack was of an “undeniable terrorist nature”.

A statement issued by the French bishops’ conference asked Catholics to pray for the victims and their families at Masses on Sunday.

The statement said: “Nice was struck yesterday by a heinous attack.

“Men, women and children were blindly killed while they were coming to celebrate July 14, 2016 with the entire country.

“The Bishops’ Conference of France (CEF) fully shares the grief of relatives and families of the victims. It assures them of their thoughts and prayers. Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseille, president of the CEF, invites all Catholics in France to pray especially for the victims and their families at Mass this Sunday, July 17.

“This tragedy adds to the sad list of terrorist acts that have marred our country and other countries in the world for many months. Whatever the reason, this barbarism is unacceptable, intolerable.

“Our country was hurt while living a moment of national unity. More than ever, national solidarity must be stronger than terrorism.”

“In the pain of the day, we need to keep the certainty that unity is greater than division,” the bishops’ statement said.