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Pope urges ‘sincere dialogue’ as he meets Nice attack victims

Pope Francis / AFP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABI

Pope Francis / AFP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABI

Pope Francis on Saturday called for a “sincere dialogue” between Christians and Muslims as he met grieving relatives and survivors of France’s Bastille Day attack, in which a jihadist ploughed his truck into a crowd.

The pope, who this week denounced violence in the name of religion — declaring “there is no God of war” — met 180 people who were wounded, or left traumatised or bereaved by the July 14 attack in Nice which claimed 86 lives.

“We need to start a sincere dialogue and have fraternal relations between everybody, especially those who believe in a sole God who is merciful,” he said, speaking in the Vatican’s giant Paul VI audience hall, and calling this “an urgent priority.”

“It is with a feeling of great emotion that I am meeting you, those who are suffering in body and in spirit because an evening of festivity turned into one of violence which struck blindly at all, without taking into account their origins or religion,” the pontiff said.

“We can only respond to the Devil’s attacks with God’s works which are forgiveness, love and respect for the other, even if they are different,” he said.

Members of 58 families were flown in especially from the French Riviera resort city of Nice.

They were joined in Rome by 150 others who travelled from France by car and a delegation from a French regional interreligious group, including the Catholic bishop of Nice and Muslim, Jewish, Orthodox and Protestant representatives.

Last month the Argentine pontiff met French President Francois Hollande to offer his support and condolences to a country which has been rocked by a series of deadly attacks since early 2015.

While speaking out against violent acts carried out in the name of any god, Francis this week reminded the West that there were parts of the world being flattened by fighting.

Speaking in the Italian town of Assisi on Tuesday he said, “We are frightened… by some terrorist acts”, but “this is nothing compared to what is happening in those countries, in those lands where day and night bombs fall.”

Vincent Delhommel Desmarest, who runs a restaurant on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice where the attack happened, said he has been on sick leave ever since and now sees a psychologist three times a week.

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