The French newspaper La Croix reports that the priest, two nuns and two other worshippers were held hostage by two men who burst into the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, brandishing knives. Another nun managed to escape and call for help. Police officers from the Brigade of Research and Intervention (BRI) responded to the alarm, shooting the kidnappers.
Although the kidnappers’ motive has not been confirmed, the attack is believed to be terrorism. The Times of Israel reported that
“…one hostage taker was bearded and was wearing a woolen cap worn by Muslim men.
French media also reported the attackers yelled “Daesh” as they entered the church, though its not clear why they would announce themselves using a derogatory term for the Islamic State terror group.”
The French Anti-Terrorism Sub-Directorate (SDAT) and the Directorate General of Internal Security (RPS) have taken charge of the investigation.
Archbishop Dominique Lebrun, archbishop of Rouen, had been in Krakow Poland, attending the World Youth Day events but is now on his way back to France. In his absence, Fr. Maheut Philippe, Vicar General of Rouen, rushed to the church.
French President Francois Hollande and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve are en route to the town. On Twitter, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls expressed his ‘horror at the barbaric attack” and said that “The whole of France and all Catholics are bruised.”
This morning’s attack in the church follows just twelve days after a terrorist attack in the French town of Nice, where a truck plowed through a crowd attending the Bastille Day Festival, killing 84 and injuring hundreds.
Image: Church of St. Étienne in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy, France seen on July 29 2012. (M-Knight76, Wikimedia commons)