Saint-Pierre d’Arene church in Nice./ Jesmar via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

‘Extraordinary courage’: Nun injured while grabbing knife from man attacking priest in France

A Catholic nun has been praised for her bravery after disarming a knifeman who attacked a priest in a church in Nice, southern France, before Mass was due to take place.

The male attacker shouted “we have to kill Macron” before carrying out the frenzied attack on the priest, according to reports. Father Krzysztof Rudzinski, 59, was stabbed 20 times with a 7cm knife before Sister Marie-Claude, 72, intervened, and was cut in the hand as she reportedly grabbed the knife from the attacker.

The priest and nun were both injured but nobody died in the violent assault, with Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin taking to his Twitter feed to share that the priest’s life was not in danger, and that the police had arrested the attacker who they described as “mentally unstable”. 

The attack happened as France went to the polls for the second round of the presidential elections on Sunday. Firefighters transported Fr Rudzinski to Hospital Pasteur, the university hospital in Nice, France.

Nice mayor Christian Estrosi said the attacker was mentally unstable, had no criminal record and had bought the knife used in the attack several days earlier. 

“A service was supposed to start here at 10:30 a.m., some of the faithful were already in place. Before the start of the service, a person came in armed with a knife and rushed at the priest and hit him several times with his knife,” Bernard Gonzales, prefect of the Alpes-Maritimes said, according to a report by RNL.

“One of the people present, a nun, a sister, immediately went to her side to try to help her. She too was injured,” he said.

While some local news outlets are reporting that the priest is critically ill, the Diocese of Nice issued a statement on April 24 that the priest and Sr. Marie-Claude are expected to recover from their injuries.  

Christian Estrosi, mayor of Nice, said that the assailant, a 31-year-old French man without a criminal record, was “mentally unstable,” Reuters reported.

“According to a police source, this man, named ‘Kevin,’ of French nationality and born in Fréjus, is ‘manifestly bipolar’ and his gesture would have ‘no terrorist character a priori,’”  the prosecutor said, RTL reported.

“He spontaneously told the police that he was Jewish and that on this election day he wanted to kill Macron and that he ended up attacking a church,” he said.

The suspect is now in the care of a psychiatric hospital after being arrested by police, according to news reports.

NUN: “IT WAS THE GRACE OF THE LORD”

Speaking to the news outlet RTL one day after the attack, Sr Marie-Claude said that “supernatural intervention” stopped the attacker from killing both her and the priest.

“I was bleeding a lot, Father Krzysztof was on the ground,” Sr. Marie-Claude said.

“The boy stopped. I don’t know how. I think with the grace of the Lord, because it is regularly asked for. I think there was a supernatural intervention that stopped him because he had everything for both to stab me in the carotid or in the heart and the same for Father Christophe. He stopped. Why? I don’t know,” she said.

Fr. Rudziński is originally from Suchowola, in Poland, and has served at the French church for ten years.

’EXTRAORDINARY COURAGE’

Taking to Twitter, local politician Éric Ciotti was clearly moved by the bravery of the religious sister, praising the “extraordinary courage” of the elderly nun, who intervened while the attacker continued to stab the priest. 

“Extraordinary courage of Sister Marie-Claude who intervened while the attacker continued to stab Father Christophe,” he wrote, adding: “She snatched the knife from him while being injured on the forearm.”

 

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