Pope Francis condemned the attack at a church in Nice, France, that killed three people and wounded several others on Thursday, October 29.
“Condemning such violent acts of terror in the strongest possible way, [the pontiff] assures the Catholic community of France and all the French people of his closeness,” read a statement from the Vatican.
“Confiding France to the protection of Our Lady, [Pope Francis] wholeheartedly gives the apostolic blessing to all those affected by this tragedy,” it added.
A separate statement released by the Holy See Press Office said the pope is praying for all those affected by the attack “and that the people may react united, responding to evil with good.”
“It is a moment of pain, in a time of confusion. Terrorism and violence can never be accepted,” read the statement released by Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office.
He said the attack “has sown death in a place of love and consolation, like the house of the Lord.”
“The pope is informed of the situation and is close to the mourning Catholic community,” read the statement, adding the Pope Francis prayed “that the violence may cease, so that we may return to look upon ourselves as brothers and sisters and not as enemies.”
An attacker, who was armed with a knife, entered the Basilica of Notre Dame de Nice at about nine o’clock in the morning, killing at least three people.
The suspect was heard repeatedly shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) before being shot by the police.
France’s chief anti-terrorist prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard Ricard told a news conference that the attacker stabbed and killed the 55-year-old sexton and beheaded a 60-year-old woman.
He also stabbed a 44-year-old woman who fled to a nearby cafe where she raised the alarm before dying, Ricard said.
Ricard said the suspect arrived in Europe on September 20 in Lampedusa, the Italian island off Tunisia that is the main landing point for migrants from Africa.
The attack in Nice follows the beheading of a French teacher who showed controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to some of his students earlier this month.
French President Emmanuel Macron has called the killing in Nice an “Islamist terrorist attack”.
The attacks in Nice came at a time of growing Muslim anger at France’s defense of the right to publish the cartoons, and protesters have denounced France in street rallies in several Muslim-majority countries.
Bishop André Marceau of Nice said all churches in Nice have been closed and will remain under police protection until further notice.
The president of the French Council of Muslim Faith, Mohammed Moussaoui, condemned the attack and asked French Muslims to cancel their festivities for Mawlid, the October 29 celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.
The basilica, completed in 1868, is the largest church in Nice.
with a report from Reuters