Authorities within the Catholic Church in France have condemned the suspected terrorist attack at a church in Nice and offered their condolences to the victims and their families.

The Conference of Bishops of France (CEF) described their “immense sadness” in the aftermath of the attack and described terrorism as a “gangrene to be stopped.”

The bishops said the incident was reminiscent of the killing of Fr. Jacques Hamel, who was murdered by two jihadists from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) while he was celebrating mass in 2016. Fr. Hamel was labeled a martyr and is on course to be declared a saint after Pope Francis waived the traditional five-year waiting period.

The bishops’ organization also announced that a death knell for the victims will ring out in churches across France at 3pm local time on Thursday. They invited Catholics to pray for the deceased and their families.

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Three people were killed during the incident in the Notre-Dame area of Nice which prompted authorities to move France’s national terrorist alert system to the highest level.

“We are moved, very touched and in a kind of astonishment at this kind of unspeakable act,” Father Hugues de Woillemont, spokesperson for the CEF, told AFP, adding that Catholics must not become a target for terrorist atrocities in the country.

“There is an urgent need to combat this gangrene that is terrorism, in the same way that there is an urgency to put in place in a concrete way a fraternity in our country,” he said.

Pope Francis expressed his solidarity with the victims and their families and called for the French people “to respond to evil with good.” (RT)