Islamic State claims two men who killed a Catholic priest July 26 in a church northwest of Paris were its “soldiers.”
The attackers, who have not been identified, stormed the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, near the town of Rouen, during morning mass. They killed the priest, 84-year-old Rev. Jacques Hamel, by slitting his throat. Police shot the men after they took several parishioners hostage. Another person inside the church was seriously injured in the attack and may not survive. Three others escaped unharmed.
“I cry out to God, with all men of good will. And I invite all non-believers to unite with this cry,” Dominique Lebrun, the archbishop of Rouen, wrote in a statement from Krakow, Poland, where Pope Francis was visiting. “The Catholic Church has no other arms besides prayer and fraternity between men.”
ISIS had previously called on its sympathizers in France to attack churches. Intelligence officials discovered a plot against a Paris church earlier this year before it was carried out.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi decried the violence, noting the attack hits particularly hard “because this horrific violence took place in a church, a sacred place in which the love of God is announced, and the barbaric murder of a priest and the involvement of the faithful.”
Security forces are carefully inspecting the church for any signs of bombs or booby traps the attackers might have planted.
“The investigations are ongoing. There are still unknowns,” said Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet. “There are dogs, explosive detectors and bomb disposal services and as long as there are still unknowns, the judicial police cannot get inside the site. It’s a dramatic situation.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
— by Leigh Jones | WNS