A teacher comforts a child as they observe a minute of silence, for those killed by a gunman,  outside Ozar Hatorah Jewish school. CNS photoA teacher comforts a child as they observe a minute of silence, for those killed by a gunman, outside Ozar Hatorah Jewish school. CNS photoTOULOUSE, FRANCE – French Church leaders have condemned the March 19 attack outside a Jewish school in Toulouse.

“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 defenceless people”.

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

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.

Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, 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”. - CNS

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