By John Newton THE international head of a leading Catholic charity for persecuted Christians has expressed horror at the killing of three people just before the start of Mass in France – and called on world leaders to condemn the attack.
In a statement made last night (Thursday, 29th October), Dr Thomas Heine-Geldern, international executive president of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) wrote: “ACN is deeply shocked by the horrific attack which took place this morning in the Basilica of Notre-Dame of the Assumption in Nice, France, causing the death of three people, including the beheading of a woman.
“ACN denounces this outburst of violence, yet another terrorist act in France, and one more on the long list of crimes against Christians in the world.”
The assailant, Brahim Aouissaoui, was a 21-year-old Tunisian man who arrived in France shortly before the attack.
Dr Heine-Geldern added: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, the injured, their families and the entire French Catholic community.
“At the same time, we call on all political and religious leaders in the world to firmly and explicitly condemn this radical Islamist attack.
“As the French bishops have written, these people have been attacked because they were in the church and because they ‘represented a symbol’ to be destroyed.”
Dr Heine-Geldern went on to say: “We feel that these days Christians in Europe are caught between a radical and visceral attack on two fronts: one which wants to destroy their roots and to create a purely individualistic society without God.
“And another which has been radicalised and wants to impose a fundamentalist Islamist system by force, sowing terror and violence as we have seen in Nice, abusing the name of religion and God.”
ACN’s international executive president also called for respect for religious belief and decried the ridicule of the symbols of faith of any confession.
Two people died in the church during the attack. A 60-year-old woman’s neck was almost completely severed and the basilica’s 55-year-old sacristan was also killed.
Outside, a woman of 44 was stabbed, succumbing to her injuries shortly afterwards.
Aid to the Church in Need is a Pontifical Foundation directly under the Holy See. As a Catholic charity, ACN supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in need through information, prayer, and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope St John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in 140 countries throughout the world.
Undertaking thousands of projects every year, the charity provides emergency support for people experiencing persecution, transport for clergy and lay Church workers, Child’s Bibles, media and evangelisation projects, churches, Mass stipends and other support for priests and nuns and training for seminarians.
Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACN’s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow and another office based in Lancaster that covers the North-West.
Please always acknowledge Aid to the Church in Need as the source when using our material.
For more information, contact ACN Head of Press & Information John Pontifex on 020 8661 5161 or Senior Press Officer Dr John Newton on 020 8661 5167.