A Canadian Catholic priest is recovering after he was stabbed during mass on Friday morning. The incident was broadcast to thousands of viewers via live television, as the mass was being carried on a Catholic television station, according to a report from Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The victim, 77-year-old Claude Grou, was getting ready to begin speaking at the pulpit when a man charged the priest. The pair briefly scuffled, then Grou fell to the ground and was stabbed once before guards intervened and detained the suspect.
This attack comes only days after another assault on a place of worship happened halfway around the world in Christchurch, New Zealand, where a gunman entered two mosques and began shooting worshipers. Despite the timing of the attack in Canada, local police told reporters they do not believe the incidents are related.
“This was an isolated attack, and there is nothing to link it to terrorism,” said police spokeswoman Caroline Chevrefils while speaking to AFP. Cheverfils claims Friday’s assailant was “known to police.”
The stabbing took place at Canada’s St. Joseph’s Oratory, located in Montreal. The church is one of the country’s largest, and attracts about two million visitors each year, according to AFP.
“I find this incident very unfortunate, in a place so peaceful that attracts millions of visitors,” said Jean-Francois Lefebvre, who works at St. Joseph’s and was a witness to Friday’s attack. Canadian politicians also spoke in support of the priest and decried the violence, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who sent his wishes to Grou via Twitter.
What a horrible attack at Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal this morning. Father Claude Grou, Canadians are thinking of you and wishing you a swift recovery.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) March 22, 2019
This is not the first time a religious facility has been attacked in Canada. In January of 2017, twenty-something university student Alexandre Bissonnette shot and killed six people who were attending mosque in Quebec City, Quebec. Bissonnette is currently serving a life sentence for the crime.