Catholics condemn 'terrible' shootings at French Jewish school

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School children are comforted at the Ozar Hatorah school on March 19, 2012 in Toulouse, France. Credit: Gilles Bouquillon/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The murders of a rabbi and three schoolchildren at a Jewish school in France caused condemnation from Catholic leaders who expressed their solidarity with the victims.

Archbishop Robert Le Gall of Toulouse has issued a statement voicing “profound sympathy” with the victims and their families and promising prayers for them.

Vatican Press Office director Fr. Federico Lombardi said the act was “terrible and shameful.” The attack “arouses deep indignation and bewilderment and the most resolute condemnation,” especially given “the age and the innocence of the young victims” and because it happened at a “peaceful Jewish educational institution.”

Fr. Lombardi voiced his condolences and Catholics “deepest spiritual solidarity” to the bereaved families and to the Jewish community, Vatican Radio reports.

An unknown assailant on a motorbike fired two handguns on the Jewish Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, killing a 30-year-old rabbi, his 6-year-old and 3-year-old sons, and an 8-year-old schoolgirl who is daughter of the principal. A 17-year-old boy was also seriously wounded.

The school is a middle school and high school in a quiet residential neighborhood.

“He shot at everything he had in front of him, children and adults. The children were chased inside the school,” French prosecutor Michel Valet told the Associated Press.

One weapon used in the attack was also used in Toulouse-area motorcycle attacks last week. Those shootings targeted paratroopers of North African and Caribbean origin, sparking suspicions a serial killer was targeting French minorities.

The recent murders of the paratroopers has also “deeply affected” the region, Archbishop Le Gall said.

The Bishops’ Conference of France said the school shootings were an “odious massacre.”

“Catholics express their strong indignation at this senseless violence aimed at defenseless people,” the conference said March 19.

In response to the crime, the Church has organized a prayer service at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris for Monday afternoon.

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