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Pope Francis tells of his sorrow and horror over barbaric slaughter in a house of God in Normandy

By Becky Barnes

Published 27/07/2016

This picture obtained on the website of the Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray parish on July 26, 2016 shows late priest Jacques Hamel celebrating a mass on June 11, 2016 in the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy. AFP/Getty Images
This picture obtained on the website of the Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray parish on July 26, 2016 shows late priest Jacques Hamel celebrating a mass on June 11, 2016 in the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy. AFP/Getty Images
A vehicle of anti-terror Vigipirate plan, dubbed "Operation Sentinelle", is parked outside Saint-Jerome church in Toulouse, southwestern France on July 26, 2016, during a mass in tribute to the victims of the attack in the Normandy city of Saint-Etienne du Rouvray's church in which a priest was killed in the latest of a string of attacks against Western targets claimed by or blamed on the Islamic State jihadist group. French President said that two men who attacked a church and slit the throat of a priest had "claimed to be from Daesh", using the Arabic name for the Islamic State group. Police said they killed two hostage-takers in the attack in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, 125 kilometres (77 miles) north of Paris. / AFP PHOTO / ERIC CABANISERIC CABANIS/AFP/Getty Images
People attend a mass at the Notre-Dame cathedral on July 26, 2016 in Paris, in memory of a priest killed earlier today in the Normandy city of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, in the latest of a string of attacks against Western targets claimed by or blamed on the Islamic State jihadist group. French President Francois Hollande said that two men who attacked a church and slit the throat of a priest had "claimed to be from Daesh", using the Arabic name for the Islamic State group. Police said they killed two hostage-takers in the attack in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, 125 kilometres (77 miles) north of Paris. / AFP PHOTO / GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELTGEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP/Getty Images
Hooded Police officers conduct a search in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, France, following an attack on a church that left a priest dead, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Two attackers invaded a church Tuesday during morning Mass near the Normandy city of Rouen, killing an 84-year-old priest by slitting his throat and taking hostages before being shot and killed by police, French officials said. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Police officers stand in front of a building during a search operation in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, France, following an attack on a church that left a priest dead, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Two attackers invaded a church Tuesday during morning Mass near the Normandy city of Rouen, killing an 84-year-old priest by slitting his throat and taking hostages before being shot and killed by police, French officials said. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
French policemen stand near an armoured vehicle of the French Research and Intervention Brigade (BRI) police during a search in a house on July 26, 2016 in the Normandy village of Saint-Etienne du Rouvray after a priest was killed in the latest of a string of attacks against Western targets claimed by or blamed on the Islamic State jihadist group. French President said that two men who attacked a church and slit the throat of a priest had "claimed to be from Daesh", using the Arabic name for the Islamic State group. Police said they killed two hostage-takers in the attack in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, 125 kilometres (77 miles) north of Paris. / AFP PHOTO / MATTHIEU ALEXANDREMATTHIEU ALEXANDRE/AFP/Getty Images
A French policeman stands near an armoured vehicle of the French Research and Intervention Brigade (BRI) police during a search in a house on July 26, 2016 in the Normandy village of Saint-Etienne du Rouvray after a priest was killed in the latest of a string of attacks against Western targets claimed by or blamed on the Islamic State jihadist group. French President said that two men who attacked a church and slit the throat of a priest had "claimed to be from Daesh", using the Arabic name for the Islamic State group. Police said they killed two hostage-takers in the attack in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, 125 kilometres (77 miles) north of Paris. / AFP PHOTO / MATTHIEU ALEXANDREMATTHIEU ALEXANDRE/AFP/Getty Images
French policemen stand in the street during a search in a house on July 26, 2016 in the Normandy village of Saint-Etienne du Rouvray after a priest was killed in the latest of a string of attacks against Western targets claimed by or blamed on the Islamic State jihadist group. French President said that two men who attacked a church and slit the throat of a priest had "claimed to be from Daesh", using the Arabic name for the Islamic State group. Police said they killed two hostage-takers in the attack in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, 125 kilometres (77 miles) north of Paris. / AFP PHOTO / CHARLY TRIBALLEAUCHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images
In this grab made from video, French President Francois Hollande shakes hands with police and security services personnel after arriving at the scene of the hostage situation in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray Normandy, France, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Two attackers took hostages inside a French church during morning Mass on Tuesday near the city of Rouen, killing an 86-year-old priest by slitting his throat before being shot and killed by police, French officials said. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack. (France Pool via AP)
French soldiers stand guard as they prevent the access to the scene of an attack in Saint Etienne du Rouvray, Normandy, France, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Two attackers invaded a church Tuesday during morning Mass near the Normandy city of Rouen, killing an 84-year-old priest by slitting his throat and taking hostages before being shot and killed by police, French officials said. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
French police officers prevent the access to the scene of an attack in Saint Etienne du Rouvray, Normandy, France, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Two attackers invaded a church Tuesday during morning Mass near the Normandy city of Rouen, killing an 84-year-old priest by slitting his throat and taking hostages before being shot and killed by police, French officials said. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
French soldiers stand guard near the scene of an attack in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, France, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Two attackers invaded a church Tuesday during morning Mass near the Normandy city of Rouen, killing an 84-year-old priest by slitting his throat and taking hostages before being shot and killed by police, French officials said. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
In this grab made from video, police officers close off a road during a hostage situation in Normandy, France, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. 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. (BFM via AP)
In this grab made from video, police officers speak to a driver as they close off a road during a hostage situation in Normandy, France, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. 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. (BFM via AP)
French policemen stand outside a house during a search in a house on July 26, 2016 in the Normandy village of Saint-Etienne du Rouvray after a priest was killed in the latest of a string of attacks against Western targets claimed by or blamed on the Islamic State jihadist group. French President said that two men who attacked a church and slit the throat of a priest had "claimed to be from Daesh", using the Arabic name for the Islamic State group. Police said they killed two hostage-takers in the attack in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, 125 kilometres (77 miles) north of Paris. / AFP PHOTO / MATTHIEU ALEXANDREMATTHIEU ALEXANDRE/AFP/Getty Images
French police officers stand guard in front of the Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray's city hall, Normandy, France, after an attack on a church that left a priest dead, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Two attackers invaded a church Tuesday during morning Mass near the Normandy city of Rouen, killing an 84-year-old priest by slitting his throat and taking hostages before being shot and killed by police, French officials said. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Police officers conduct a search in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, France, following an attack on a church that left a priest dead, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Two attackers invaded a church Tuesday during morning Mass near the Normandy city of Rouen, killing an 84-year-old priest by slitting his throat and taking hostages before being shot and killed by police, French officials said. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Pope Francis yesterday expressed "sorrow and horror" over the suspected terror attack in a French church.

He was among world leaders to pay tribute after Catholic priest Father Jacques Hamel (84) was murdered and a member of the congregation seriously injured in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, south of Rouen, Normandy.

A Vatican statement said: "We are particularly struck because this horrible violence has occurred in a church - a sacred place where we pronounce God's love - with the barbaric murder of a priest and with worshippers affected."

French president Francois Hollande travelled to the scene with interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve as police began their investigations.

In a tweet "to the families of the victims and all Catholics in France", President Hollande offered "solidarity and compassion".

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: "Evil attacks the weakest, denies truth and love, is defeated through Jesus Christ. Pray for France, for victims, for their communities."

Confirming Father Hamel's death, the Archbishop of Rouen, Dominique Lebrun, who cut short a visit to Poland to return to his diocese, said: "I cry to God with all men of goodwill. The only arms which the Catholic Church can take up are prayer and brotherhood between men."

French prime minister Manuel Valls wrote on Twitter: "All of France and all Catholics are bruised. We stand together."

Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain stood with France, adding that a terrorist attack in the UK was "highly likely".

"What is necessary is for us to work together and stand shoulder to shoulder with France," she stressed. "We offer them every support in dealing with this issue and this threat that they, and the rest of us, are facing.

"But on one thing, I think we are all absolutely clear, and that is the terrorists will not prevail.

"They are trying to destroy our way of life. They are trying to destroy our values.

"We have shared values and those values will win through and the terrorists will not win."

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