VATICAN CITY — After a truck plowed through crowds celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice, killing 84, Pope Francis voiced his sorrow for the act of “blind violence” and assured the French people of his prayers.
In a July 15 letter signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Pope expressed “his deep sorrow and spiritual closeness to the French people,” entrusting the dead to God’s mercy and uniting himself in the pain of grieving families.
He offered his sympathy to the wounded and to rescuers, praying that the Lord “sustain each one in the event” and grant “the gift of peace and harmony” to the grieving and to the entire French nation.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi also expressed his grief and solidarity with the victims, firmly condemning all acts of terrorism and hate.
“We condemn in the most absolute way every manifestation of homicidal madness, of hate, of terrorism and of every attack against peace,” he said in a July 15 statement.
Having followed news of the attack with “great concern,” the spokesman, on behalf of Pope Francis, expressed the Vatican’s participation and solidarity in the suffering of the victims and of the French people as a whole on “what should have been a day of great celebration.”
The Vatican’s statement comes the day after a large truck ploughed through crowds along 1.2 miles of the Promenade des Anglais in the southern French city of Nice, killing more than 80, including several children, and wounding roughly 50 others, 18 of whom remain in critical condition, according to BBC News.
Crowds had been celebrating Bastille Day, which marks the day of France’s independence and is traditionally the country’s biggest public holiday.
Shortly after the end of a fireworks display on the seaside, the truck turned onto the pavement and began driving through the crowd at 25-30 mph, zigzagging in an attempt to hit as many people as possible.
When stopped by police, the driver, believed to be a French-Tunisian criminal known to police but not on a terrorist watch list, opened fire before being shot dead by officers. Upon searching the vehicle, police reportedly found guns and grenades inside the truck.
The attack prompted French President Francois Hollande to extend the countrywide state of emergency imposed after a chain of attacks in Paris left nearly 130 people dead on Nov. 13, 2015. The state of emergency will now be effective until July 26.
In a nationwide address, Hollande said France was in tears and had been “badly hit,” but was strong. “We need to do everything we can to fight against” such attacks, he said, adding that “all of France is under the threat of Islamic terrorism.”
He announced that “operational reserves” would be deployed to support the army and security forces throughout France, particularly on the country’s borders.