Pope Francis on Saturday received family members of the victims of the Bastille Day (14 July) terror attack in Nice. In his address, he said that when “interreligious relations are very much alive,” they can “help to alleviate the hurt of those dramatic events”.
The pontiff met about 180 people – attack victims and their family –
as well as officials of the City of Nice and members of the
'Alpes-Maritimes Fraternité’ interfaith group, including the bishop of
Nice, and Jewish, Muslim, Orthodox and Protestant representatives.
For the pope, “establishing a sincere dialogue and fraternal
relations among all, particularly among those who confess a God who is
one and merciful, is an urgent priority that those in leadership
positions, both political and religious, should seek to encourage, and
which everyone is called to realise in their own milieu.”
“When the temptation of turning inward, or meeting hatred with hatred
and violence with violence is great, true conversion of the heart is
necessary. This is the message that the Gospel of Jesus addresses to all
of us. We can respond to the assaults of the devil only with the works
of God, like forgiveness, love and respect for one’s neighbour, even if
he or she is different.”
The pope’s address was preceded by those of Mgr André Marceau,
archbishop of Nice, and Mayor Christian Estrosi, who gave the pontiff a
basket with “86 flowers, like our [fallen]”, flowers of "many colours,
like us" (pictured).
The shared value of inter-religious relations was stressed. The
attack by French-Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, shouting "Allah
akhbar" as he drove a lorry over his victims, was met with praise on
Islamic state sites. This attack, along with the series of bombings in
France, sparked anti-Islamic demonstrations and aggravated tensions in
France’s multicultural society.
In Nice, today's meeting with Pope Francis has been criticised by
some “human rights” groups in the name of the country’s separation of
state and religion. A green member of the Nice City Council, Juliette
Chesnel-Le Roux, described the meeting with the "head of the Catholic
Church" as a "provocation" since the victims included people of many
Conversely, Imam Boubekeur Bekri, vice-president of the Regional
Council of the Muslim Faith in southeastern France, who was present in
Rome, said that it is right for believers "to come closer to each
other." Jewish leaders also expressed a favourable opinion about meeting
"I pray to the God of mercy,” the pope said, “for all injured people,
some of whom were atrociously mutilated in the flesh or in the spirit,
and I cannot forget all those who could not come or who are still in the
“The Church remains close to you and accompanies you with immense
compassion. With her presence next to you in moments such as these,
which are so weighty to face, she asks the Lord to come to your aid and
to put in your hearts sentiments of peace and brotherhood."
At the end of the audience, Pope Francis met one by one the people present at the event.