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20160726T0856 0551 CNS POPE FRENCH HOSTAGE 800A policeman reacts as he secures a position in front of city hall after two assailants killed 84-year-old Father Jacques Hamel and took five people hostage during a weekday morning Mass at the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France, near Rouen July 26. (CNS photo/Pascal Rossignol/Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The murder of a priest in northern France, taken hostage with a handful of other faithful during a weekday morning Mass July 26, is another act of "absurd violence" added to too many stories of senseless violence and death, said the Vatican spokesman.

Pope Francis was informed about the hostage situation at the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen and the murder of 84-year-old Father Jacques Hamel, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.

"With pain and horror" for the "absurd violence," Pope Francis expressed his condemnation of "every form of hatred" and offered his prayers for all those involved.

"We are particularly stricken because this horrible violence occurred in a church – a sacred place in which the love of God is proclaimed – with the barbaric killing of a priest," Father Lombardi said.

Police said two men, armed with knives, entered the church during Mass. They reportedly slit the throat of Father Hamel.

Apparently alerted by a member of the congregation who escaped, police killed both hostage-takers. They said another person present at the Mass was in serious condition at the hospital.

Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen, who was in Krakow, Poland, with World Youth Day pilgrims when the attacked occurred, said he would return to his archdiocese.

"The Catholic Church can take up no weapons other than those of prayer and brotherhood among people of good will," the archbishop said in a statement from Krakow. He said that while he would leave Poland, hundreds of young people from his diocese would remain. "I ask them not to give in to violence," but instead "become apostles of the civilization of love."

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a message of condolence to Archbishop Lebrun. The cardinal said Pope Francis was "particularly upset that this act of violence took place in a church during Mass, the liturgical act that implores God's peace for the world."

In the latest event of violence, the cardinal said, the pope prayed God would "inspire in all thoughts of reconciliation and brotherhood."

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.