Photo: Bishop of Nice André Marceau presides over a memorial for the victims of the Nice terror attack (Olivier Huitel/Diocese of Nice)

A Portuguese bishop has blamed the Nice terror attack on European “prejudices”, insisting that the tragedy is not another show of the “struggle of Islam against Christianity”.

– Bishop of Porto says tragedy result of “finger-wagging at religions”

“Yesterday’s attack on the cathedral of Nice is not the struggle of Islam against Christianity: it is the result of the prejudices of those Europeans who not only fail to foster intercultural and interreligious dialogue, but are also ready to engage in finger-wagging at religions”, Bishop of Porto Manuel Linda wrote October 30 on Twitter.

The bishop was referring to the tragedy that unfolded the morning of October 29 when a man entered the Basilica of Notre Dame in the south-eastern French city and killed a 60-year-old woman and a 55-year-old man who served as sacristan.

A third woman maimed in the attack – a 44-year-old mother-of-three from Brazil who had lived in France for 30 years – managed to flee the perpetrator and take refuge in a nearby restaurant, where she later died from her injuries as she told paramedics: “Tell my children I love them”.

French president Emmanuel Macron described the tragedy as an “Islamist terrorist attack”. At the scene police shot and seriously wounded a 21-year-old Tunisian national – named in the media as Brahim Aioussaoi – whom they later arrested under suspicion of having committed the crime.

Linda received pushback for his attempt to dial down the rhetoric of a clash of civilisations that has escalated in recent weeks with the October 16 murder of teacher Samuel Paty in Paris and now with the Nice terrorist attack.

The bishop later issued another tweet clarifying his remarks. “What is meant in my previous message is that a fanatic does not represent Islam. But many who see religious war in this act are the ones who devalue religions the most. Of course, I condemn the attack”, Linda explained.

– Nice diocese holds moving rite of reparation, Mass in remembrance of three who perished

In the meantime, a solemn Mass was held Sunday in the Nice basilica on the Feast of All Saints. André Marceau, the bishop of Nice, presided over the Eucharist, in the presence of the priests of Nice, priests of the parish of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption and parishioners.

The Mass was concelebrated with Dominique-Marie David, the Archbishop of Monaco, Jean-Marc Aveline, the Archbishop of Marseille and Bernard Barsi, the Archbishop Emeritus of Monaco. Several political figures and authorities also attended.

A statement from the diocese said the Mass was preceded by “a special penitential rite of reparation that must be conducted when a seriously harmful act, such as murder, is committed in a church”.

The basilica was plunged into darkness, with the the altar laid bare after the clergy processed in in purple vestments. Bishop Marceau said: “Tonight, let us dare to live the sign of water, the sign of our baptism… Water is a sign of conversion, of our plunging into the heart of the mystery of God of love. Let us hear this call to live”.

Marceau then sprinkled the walls of the basilica with holy water. Then the lights came back on. The bishops and priests then changed into white vestments as a sign of purity and of the passage from darkness to light.

During the celebration, the three victims of the attack were remembered: Nadine, aged 60, Simone, 44, and Vincent, the sacristan, who was 55 years old.

Maximum security was in place throughout the service. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, a smaller than usual number of parishioners was able to attend, but the Mass was broadcast live on KTO TV. Outside the basilica, hundreds of people gathered to commiserate and express their solidarity.

Suspect Aioussaoi remains in police custody in a hospital in Nice, and French police have launched an anti-terrorism investigation, with a total of six people reportedly having been questioned to date on suspicion of being linked to the attacker.

The commemoration in Nice came as another religiously-linked attack occurred in France’s Lyon.

A Greek Orthodox priest, identified as 52-year-old Nikolaos Kakavelaki, was shot at and injured in the 7th district of Lyon near a Greek church on Saturday afternoon. He is now in serious condition at the hospital.

The gunman fled the scene of the shooting and is likely still at large, as Lyon police have released the initial suspect in the attack.

The shooting of Kakavelaki is not thought to be related to Islamist terrorism.

(With information from Independent Catholic News and Sputnik)

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Nice terror attack: Pope condemns “violent act of terror” in “strongest possible way”

EU Bishops mourn victims of Nice terror attack: “They were killed only because they wanted to pray to the Lord in a church”

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.