— Catholic Herald, Rome — Pope Francis has sent a telegram expressing his condolences to families of victims and reiterating his spiritual closeness to the Catholic community and the entire French people, in the wake of a brutal knife attack in Nice’s Notre Dame church that left three people dead on Thursday morning and several others injured.
Addressed to the Bishop of Nice, André Marceau, and signed by the Cardinal-Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, the message calls the incident a “savage attack” and promising that “Pope Francis joins in prayer with the suffering of families affected and shares their grief.” The Holy Father further prays that “the Lord bring them the
comfort and he commends the victims to his mercy.”
Pope Francis goes in to condemn, “in the strongest possible way such violent acts of terror,” and renews assurances of his spiritual closeness to the Catholic Community of France and all the French people,” whom he calls to unity.
The message entrusts all France to the protection of Our Lady, and concludes with the Apostolic Blessing to all those affected by this tragedy, which the Holy Father offers “with all [his] heart.”
Details continue to be sketchy, but early reports say two of the three victims died in the church proper, while a third fled the scene to a nearby café and later succumbed to her wounds. Police arrived quickly on the scene. A witness reportedly reportedly alerted authorities to the attack by availing herself of an alarm system the city had put in place in the wake of another deadly attack four years ago. Police fired several rounds, wounding and subduing the attacker. Witness reports say the attacker shouted Allahu akbar! or “God is great!” — an Islamic cri de guerre — as he undertook the attack.
The suspect is in hospital, and French anti-terrorist police are leading the investigation, while French President Emmanuel Macron was in the city early Thursday afternoon to survey the scene of the attack and offer support.