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Muslims Attend Interfaith Services in France, Italy in Show of Solidarity

  • VOA News

Muslim worshipers gather in front of the memorial at the Saint Etienne church, in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, France, July 29, 2016.

Muslim worshipers gather in front of the memorial at the Saint Etienne church, in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, France, July 29, 2016.

Muslims attended a Catholic Mass in places of worship across France and Italy Sunday in a show of solidarity days after the horrendous jihadist murder of a Catholic priest.

Over 100 Muslims joined about 2,000 people in the 11th century Gothic cathedral in the northern French city of Rouen, near the Normandy town where two teenagers slit the throat of 85-year-old Jacques Hamel and took others hostage before they were shot dead by police. The attackers had claimed allegiance to Islamic State, according to video released by the militant group.

Rouen Archbishop Dominique Lebrun thanked the Muslim worshippers "in the name of all Christians," adding, "In this way you are affirming that you reject death and violence in the name of God."

Police and rescue workers stand at the scene after two assailants had taken five people hostage in the church at Saint-Etienne-du -Rouvray near Rouen in Normandy, France, July 26, 2016.

Police and rescue workers stand at the scene after two assailants had taken five people hostage in the church at Saint-Etienne-du -Rouvray near Rouen in Normandy, France, July 26, 2016.

Among the parishioners at the service in Rouen was one of the nuns who was held hostage in the church where the priest was killed. She, along with other Catholics, shook the hands of the Muslim worshippers and embraced them after the service.

The highest ranking imam in southern French city of Nice led a group of Muslims to a Catholic mass. Nice is where a man killed 84 people and injured 435 others, including many Muslims, on Bastille Day when he rammed a truck through crowds of celebrants. "Being united is a response to the act of horror and barbarism," said imam Otaman Aissaoui.

In the southwestern French city of Bordeaux, the Notre Dame church welcomed a Muslim delegation.

Other interfaith gatherings were held elsewhere in France and in neighboring Italy, where the secretary general of the country's Islamic Confederation spoke from the alter in the Treasure of Saint Gennaro chapel in Naples.

Three imams also attended Mass at the Saint Maria Church in Rome.

The Muslims who attended the interfaith services did so in response to a call by the French Council of Muslim Faith to show their "solidarity and compassion" over the murder of the priest on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, prosecutors in Paris said they have requested that the cousin of one of the priest's killers be charged with taking part in "a terrorist association with the aim of harming others." The prosecutors said the cousin, a Frenchman, "knew very well, if not of the exact place or time, of his cousin's impending plans for violence."

Some material for this report came from AP and AFP.

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