Following the brutal murder of an elderly priest at the hands of Islamic extremists, thousands took to social media to share Christian imagery in a show of solidarity and sympathy.
As earlier reported, two Islamic extremists shouting "Allahu Akbar" slit the throat of 84-year-old Rev. Jaques Hamel and stabbed him in the chest before critically wounding another person during a terror attack on a Catholic church near the Normandy city of Rouen on Tuesday morning.
In a statement, Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, called the attack particularly heinous "because this horrific violence took place in a church, a sacred place in which the love of God is announced, and the barbaric murder of a priest and the involvement of the faithful."
He added that the attack "more terrible news, that adds to a series of violence in these days that have left us upset, creating immense pain and worry."
Pope Francis, Lombardi said, has expressed "pain and horror for this absurd violence, with the strongest condemnation for every form of hatred and prayer for those affected."
However, Lombardi said that the "Catholic church cannot take up any other weapons but prayer and brotherhood among men" and called on the faithful "to lower their arms before violence and to become an apostle of a civilization of love."
Lombardi's sentiments were echoed by thousands who took to social media to express outrage over the murder of an elderly, defenseless priest in a House of God.
The BBC notes that "I am" hashtag has become the default way of showing solidarity after it first emerged when gunmen attacked the Paris offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.
This time, the hashtag reappeared, with many priests themselves using #JeSuisPretre - I am a Priest. Others have shown solidarity with #JeSuisChretien - I am Christian - and #JeSuisCatholique - I am Catholic.
Images of Christ have also been shared as social media along with Bible verses, such as Matthew 5:43-4, which reads, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
According to the New York Times, the two attackers, who had pledged allegiance to ISIS, were later shot and killed by police after taking five others hostage. One of the attackers was identified as Adel Kermiche, 19, who was wearing an "electronic tag" - a condition of his house arrest after two attempts in 2015 to travel abroad -- at least once to Syria -- using a relative's identification.
The incident comes at a time when France is still grieving a Bastille Day terror attack that left 84 dead.
Meanwhile, a number of religious leaders have also paid their respects to Rev. Hamel: The Vatican called the incident barbarous, and the Archbishop of Canterbury was among those who tweeted a call to prayer.
"Evil attacks the weakest, denies truth (and) love, is defeated through Jesus Christ," he wrote. "Pray for France, for victims, for their communities."