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© Albin Hillert/WCC

© Albin Hillert/WCC

An elderly French priest celebrating Mass was taken hostage, along with two nuns and several laypersons, today in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray and killed before two hostage-takers’ themselves were killed in confrontation with police, the French interior ministry reported today.

Fr Jacques Hamel was believed to be 84 years old, and the attackers were said to claim allegiance to ISIS, the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Commenting on the incident, Rev. Dr Hielke Wolters, acting general secretary of the World Council of Churches, said, “We convey our sympathies to the people of France and particularly to the community of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray for this latest eruption of violence. We join their grief. It is particularly distressing when worshippers and professed religious are singled out, because their lives are put at the service of all. Yet it makes our resolve even stronger to stem violence at its very root by reaching out all the more to all people with an all-encompassing message of peace, justice, and nonviolence.”

WCC member churches in France

Statement by the French Protestant Federation (in French)