Church leaders condemn attack at Jewish school in France


TOULOUSE, France — French church leaders condemned a March 19 attack outside a Jewish school in Toulouse, the latest in a series of attacks by a gunman on a motorbike.

“Our region was overcome once more by horror this morning,” said Archbishop Robert Le Gall of Toulouse. “To the families affected by this outrage, we express our sentiments of deep compassion and our prayer.”

The archbishop issued the statement after a gunman on a motorcycle killed a rabbi, his two sons and a schoolgirl at Ozar Hatorah school, a junior high and high school.

Msgr. Antoine Herouard, secretary-general of the bishops’ conference, led a special vespers service for the victims at Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral.

Msgr. Bernard Podvin, spokesman for the French bishops’ conference, called it an “odiously perpetrated killing” and said all Catholics would feel “strong indignation” at the “blind violence against defenseless people.”

News that a gun from the school shooting was used by an attacker on a motorbike in March 12 attacks in Toulouse and nearby Montauban fueled concern that a serial killer was targeting not only Jews but French minorities. Four African and Caribbean soldiers were killed in the earlier attacks.

President Nicolas Sarkozy visited the school, and government officials said they had reinforced surveillance at all religious sites in France in response to the attack. French officials raised the terrorism alert to its highest level in southern France.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the shooting in Toulouse was “a horrible and shameful act,” which gives rise to “profound outrage and shock.”

Expressing the “condemnation and abhorrence” of the Vatican, he said the incident was particularly awful because of “the age and innocence of the victims and because it occurred in a peaceful Jewish educational institution.”