Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen has confirmed the identity of the priest who was slain by two attackers at a church in northwest France.
He says 84-year-old Father Jacques Hamel was killed Tuesday. Police say two attackers entered his church in the small Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, slit his throat and took hostages before being shot dead by police.
In a statement from Krakow, Poland, where Pope Francis was visiting, Lebrun says “I cry out to God, with all men of good will. And I invite all non-believers to unite with this cry … The Catholic Church has no other arms besides prayer and fraternity between men.”
Two attackers seized hostages in a church near the Normandy city of Rouen on Tuesday, killing one hostage by slitting their throat before being killed by police, a security official said.
The identities of the attackers and motive for the attack are unclear, according to the official, who was not authorized to be publicly named.
French President Francois Hollande and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve are en route to the town of Saint-Etienne-en-Rouvray where the hostage-taking took place, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said on France-Info radio.
Anti-terrorism investigators have been summoned in the case, Brandet said. The incident comes as France is under high alert after an attack in Nice that killed 84 people and a string of deadly attacks last year claimed by the Islamic State group. France is also under a state of emergency and has extra police presence in the wake of the July 14 Nice attack.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls expressed his horror at what he called “a barbaric attack on a church”.
“The whole of France and all Catholics are wounded. We will stand together,” he wrote on Twitter.
Mohammed Karabila, head of the Regional Council of the Muslim Faith for Haute-Normandie, said French security services knew the name of one of the attackers.
“The person who committed this odious act is known and he has been followed by the police for at least 1 1/2 years. He went to Turkey and security services were alerted after this,” he told The Associated Press by phone. He refused to divulge man’s name and had no information on the second attacker.
(with inputs from agencies)