By Vatican News
Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham in the UK has joined the ranks of other religious and political leaders around the world in condemning the knife attack which killed three people on Thursday in the Basilica of Notre Dame in Nice, France.
In the aftermath of the killings, Pope Francis expressed his sorrow and offered prayers for the Church in France.. He also condemned “such violent acts of terror in the strongest possible way.”
The country is now on its highest state of alert and President Emmanuel Macron has deployed thousands of soldiers to protect important sites such as places of worship and schools.
France’s interior minister Gerald Damarnin said on Friday more militant attacks on its soil were likely following the second fatal knife attack in the country in two weeks.
Archbishop Longley, who is also Chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Department of Dialogue and Unity described the killings as “senseless.”
Speaking to Lydia O’Kane, the Archbishop said he shared “what must be the response of most people in the UK and of course across France and the world with horror at hearing what happened at Notre Dame in Nice.”
Determination to secure peace
He spoke of a deep sense of sadness “for the French nation and people; for the Catholic Church and for all people of faith in France, and the sense of obligation that lies also upon us as Catholics, here in the UK and elsewhere, to be united in prayer with those who are suffering most closely.” He also highlighted the “determination that we can do our part in securing peace and good relations in all parts of the world.”
Over recent years France has been hit by a number of terrorist attacks. Paris suffered a series of coordinated bombings and shootings on 13 November 2015 that killed 130 people. In 2016 a fundamentalist islamic militant drove a truck through a seafront crowd in Nice celebrating Bastille Day, killing 86 people.
Attack in God’s house
Thursday’s attack took place inside a Church, as did an attack four years ago in which 84-year-old priest, Fr Jacques Hamel, was killed during morning Mass.
Archbishop Longley noted that when he heard the news on Thursday it immediately made him think of the murder of Fr Hamel. He went on to say that this violence in God’s house immediately undermines “the sense of peace which so many people seek within our sanctuaries and in our churches.”
The way of the Lord is dialogue
The Archbishop stressed that the Church’s way, the way of Lord is always one of dialogue, of opening up conversation with others.” He added, he was quite certain that these terrible events can only strengthen the Church’s commitment to dialogue with people of other faiths and indeed with culture and society more broadly.”
However, the Archbishop emphasized, at the moment the principal focus needed to be on those who are suffering because of these terrible events.